Rogue Top Gujarat Taxman Karnani Told To Surrender In 4 Days By SC

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Rogue Top Gujarat Taxman Karnani Told To Surrender In 4 Days By SC

| Updated: April 17, 2023 21:29

In a development that could have far-reaching consequences, the Supreme Court has cancelled the anticipatory bail application of Additional Income-Tax Commissioner Santosh Karnani. The top court has asked him to surrender to the police within four days.

Karnani, a 2005 IRS officer posted in Ahmedabad, was booked by the state Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly taking a Rs 30 lakh bribe from a big-ticket Ahmedabad builder, Rupesh Brahmbhatt. Rupesh and his sibling Rajesh, who own B Safal Group, had alleged that Karnani was demanding money to hush up a case against them. 

Karnani has been listed as an absconder and the CBI has listed a reward of Rs 1 lakh to those who provide information on his whereabouts.

The matter landed with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and it is alleged that Karnani fled from his office when the CBI went to arrest him a few months ago. Rupesh approached the Supreme Court against Karnani’s anticipatory bail approved by the Gujarat High Court.

In a 37-page order (attached herewith below the story), the Supreme Court has observed that the Gujarat High Court should have refrained itself from extending protection to Karnani. The Supreme Court has also noted that it has not found that the ACB acted with any personal vendetta, bias or ulterior motive against Karnani.

The SC also noted as to why anticipatory bail granted to Malav Mehta, reportedly an agent of Karnani, besides owner and employees of Dhara Angadiya, a local courier company where the bribe amount was allegedly deposited, had not been challenged by the CBI.

According to the ACB media release, Karnani had summoned. Brahmbhatt to his office on Ashram Road and demanded a bribe of ₹30 lakh “for toning down a case against him”. On October 3, Brahmbhatt was allegedly directed to deposit the money in an account operated from an office named Dhara Angadia located on the city’s upmarket Sindhu Bhawan Road.

Earlier, Karnani had filed an appraisal report on Safal Group of Brahmbhatt on the basis of IT searches at the latter’s house and B Safal’s offices. The Brahmbhatts had then disclosed an additional income of Rs 50 crore. Karnani’s bribe was reportedly to tone down this case.

However, the Gujarat Government, in consultation with the Centre, handed over the case to the CBI, which lodged an FIR on October 12 last year.  

The CBI’s investigation in the case unearthed another key figure, known businessman Malav Mehta, in whose bank account the ₹30 lakh allegedly demanded by Karnani had been deposited. The Central agency conducted searches at his residence on October 15. Mehta’s application for anticipatory bail was rejected by the CBI court on October 21, after which he had approached the Gujarat High Court seeking similar relief on the grounds that his name did not figure in the FIR first lodged by the ACB and then by the CBI against Karnani. The SC has now questioned his exclusion from the FIR. 

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