The Bharatiya Janata Party has demanded the resignation of Finance Minister P Chidambaram for 'getting his wife -- Nalini Chidambaram -- appointed as the senior legal counsel to the Central Board of Direct Taxes.'
Raking up the issue, BJP spokesperson Sushma Swaraj said: "This is a clear case of corruption where a Cabinet minister has helped his wife get a job that brings in huge financial benefits to her. For every hearing she gets paid Rs 2 lakh (Rs 200,000) to represent the CBDT. This is a fit case for finance minister to resign from his post and if does not do so, then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh should drop him from the Cabinet," she said at a crowded press conference in New Delhi on Friday.
She said that the party would raise the matter in both houses of Parliament on Monday.
The CBDT issued a clarification on Friday with regard to the engagement of Nalini Chidambaram as a special counsel for the Income Tax Department.
'The Board would like to clarify that in January 2004, Smt Pushya Sitaraman, senior standing counsel for the Income Tax Department, Chennai briefed Shri P Chidambaram (then practising as a senior advocate) in a case involving large revenue (clubbed with a batch of cases raising the same issue). The case was not taken up for hearing until May 2004, when Shri Chidambaram became finance minister,' the press release said.
'In July, 2004, due to the non-availability of Shri Chidambaram, Smt Pushya Sitaraman persuaded Smt Nalini Chidambaram, senior advocate, to take up the case, in view of her long experience and familiarity with the subject. A proposal to this effect, received from CCIT-I, Chennai was approved by the CBDT as per the prescribed procedure,' the press release added.
CBDT claimed that the proposals for engagement of counsel are not submitted to the finance minister for approval. In this case too, the file was not put up before the finance minister. Nor was the finance minister informed of the matter, CBDT said.
'In retrospect, not informing the finance minister was a lapse on the part of the Board,' CBDT admitted.
'This is the sole occasion on which Nalini Chidambaram was engaged as a special counsel by the Income Tax department. The Board regrets any embarrassment caused to the finance minister in this matter,' CBDT said.The BJP, however, lashed out at the CBDT claim and wondered how could the finance minister's wife take up a job without his knowledge. "I am told that Mrs Nalini Chidambaram claimed that she has not taken up any case for CBDT. But that makes no difference because the money for retaining her continues to be paid to her," Swaraj stated.