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Jan 27, 2013 at 07:53pm IST

Nitin Gadkari denies threatening I-T officers probing Purti, says his comments were 'distorted'

New Delhi: Clarifying his statements that prompted the Income Tax officers' body to seek an apology from him, former Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari on Saturday denied threatening I-T officers who are probing allegations of dubious funding of his firm, Purti Group. "I never threatened the IT Department or its officials. I have full faith in the professional integrity of the department." Gadkari said in a statement.

Gadkari, who said the IT Department is free to investigate any company or individual, added his statements were distorted and misinterpreted.

The IRS association had also demanded security for the officials handling Purti Group investigations after Gadkari's alleged threat to them. Gadkari had, on January 24, said, "As BJP president I had to maintain dignity and work within boundaries...Now I am a free man. Congress's boat is about to sink and when our party comes to power, there would be no Chidambaram or Sonia to save them (IT officials)."

However, in a statement released on Saturday, Gadkari said, "he has absolutely no ill will against the Income Tax Department and its officials engaged in open inquiries in the affairs of the companies which are alleged to have invested in the Purti Group."

"The IRS Association (All India Body) has noted with deep concern and shock, the news-item appearing in the national dailies regarding the alleged threat issued by Shri Nitin Gadkari to the officers of the Income Tax Department investigating the case of suspected tax-evasion by certain companies," the body had replied to Gadkari's statement in in its resolution issued on Sunday.

The Association condemned the use of "such intemperate language by a politician of national stature with intention to thwart the rule of law and demands an unconditional apology from him". The IRS (I-T) is a 4,000-strong body and it is deployed in the country under the umbrella of the tax department and on deputation to other enforcement and investigative agencies for tax collection, checking evasion and a variety of other duties in this domain.

Income Tax department offices in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur have been probing investments of alleged shell companies in the Purti group and the authorities have even summoned Gadkari in person on February 1 as part of the investigation. "The Association demands that the authorities responsible for maintaining law and order in Maharashtra take suo-motu cognisance of the utterances made by him as it is clearly meant to obstruct a Government Servant from discharging his duty," the resolution said.

The body stressed IRS officers have been trained to perform their duties without any fear or favour. "IRS Association would like to state that the IRS officers have been appointed to the Indian Revenue Service by the Hon'ble President of India on their own merit and continue to hold their position in the Government by dint of their hard work and not because of the patronage of one or the other political party.

"The Service takes pride in its apolitical character and its contribution to the nation building...Therefore, while considering the merits of the case they do not get influenced by the colour, caste, creed or economic or political influence of the taxpayers," the resolution said.