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Friday, September 2, 2011

Team Anna-government confrontation turns bitter

Anna aide Prashant Bhushan has become the latest within the team to have been targeted by the government, having been slapped with a privilege notice for alleging that MPs accept money and pass laws. Bhushan has been asked to respond to the notice by September 14.

An Income Tax notice slapped on Arvind Kejriwal for Rs.9 lakh dues saw Team Anna Friday launch a frontal attack on the government, accusing it of indulging in "dirty tricks" and not having "learnt any lesson" - within days of the Aug 28 peace overture.

Kejriwal, who was slapped the Rs.9 lakh dues notice from his years in government service till 2006, Friday said he had not violated any rules and the official claims were baseless.

"Instead of indulging in dirty tricks, the government should argue on the basis of the Jan Lokpal bill drafted by the civil society," said Prashant Bhushan, another Team Anna member and senior lawyer.

"First, they started a smear campaign when the joint drafting committee on Lokpal bill was constituted. Then came Manish Tewari's baseless allegation," added Bhushan.

Kejriwal denied violating any rule. "I have not violated any rule. In 2006, when I had resigned from the service, I had written to the government to deduct my dues from my general provident fund (GPF)," he told reporters.

Addressing newsmen, Kejriwal said he had gone for a sabbatical for three years from November 1, 2000. He signed a bond that he would refund the salary if he resigns or retires or fails to resume duty within three years of his study leave.

However, the government did not deduct the dues or settle the GPF payment, and instead served him a notice after four years and just ahead of Anna Hazare's fast for a stronger Lokpal bill, he said.

"The government, which did not send any letter for the past four years, sends the notice on Aug 5 ahead of Anna's fast. I don't think that the Income Tax department has sent it, but it has been sent by their political bosses," said Kejriwal.

"Government is interpreting the bond in a wrong manner. No employee can work without taking a single break. I have not violated the bond condition. The government should return (release) the GPF amount. I would donate the entire amount in the movement against corruption," he said.

Kejriwal alleged that his uncle and other relatives in Siwani in Haryana were probed and harassed by officials of the Intelligence Bureau and other agencies. Officials were asking people to give information about any irregularities by him or relatives, he alleged.

Prashant Bhushan said the manner of sending the notice shows that the government has "not learnt any lessons".

Meanwhile, Kiran Bedi, another member of Team Anna against whom a privilege notice was moved in parliament for mocking MPs, said: "I am sorry I will not say sorry to you. I will show a bigger mirror to them on what is happening in our parliaments."

Anna Hazare ended his 12-day fast on Sunday, a day after the two houses of Parliament at a special sitting agreed on the three key points of the Jan Lokpal Bill.

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