On Friday, Congress expressed outrage over what it claimed was the freezing of its bank accounts by the Income Tax Department. The IT Department, on its part, informed the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) that it has not frozen the Congress’s bank accounts but only asked for a lien on the amount according to an earlier demand. In the meantime, sources said Congress has to pay ₹115 crore, excluding interest.

The Congress said that the IT Department has demanded that the party ensure that ₹115 crore has to be kept in the banks. “This ₹115 crore is the lien marked in the bank accounts. We can spend an amount over and above that. This means that ₹115 crore has been frozen. This ₹115 crore is much more than we have in our current account,” Congress leader Ajay Maken wrote on X.

During the hearing in ITAT, the party sought a stay on the alleged attachment of the bank accounts by the Income Tax Department. On which the bench noted: “It comes up from the learned Special Counsel for the Revenue, who was assisted by the Assessing Officer, that the Revenue does not claim to have issued any order or direction to the concerned bank(s) for freezing the transactions in the bank account(s), but only for a lien on the amount lying in the bank account(s) up to the outstanding tax demand.”

Later, when asked about Congress saying the account is empty, sources said: “Whatever provisions are for a common citizen, the same will be applicable for Congress.” Sources said if the assessee does not pay the amount mentioned in the demand, then the next course of action would include seizure of the asset.

The matter is related to the late filing of the return for Assessment Year 2018-19. Based on the assessment, a demand of ₹103 crore was raised. Delays in payment resulted in interest too. Aggrieved by the assessment, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) moved the first level of appeal to CIT (A). The rule says an assessee needs to pay 20 per cent of the outstanding amount before the matter is taken up. However, AICC paid ₹78 lakh against the requirement of ₹21 crore. Their appeal was dismissed, and the demand was revised to ₹104 crore. In May 2023, the Congress moved a second appeal before the Delhi bench of ITAT. Sources said no stay was prayed. In the meantime, the party deposited ₹1.72 crore in October last year, making a total payment of ₹2.50 crore.

Earlier in the day, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge called freezing of accounts as “unconstitutional and a deep assault on India’s democracy. “”The power-drunk Modi government has frozen the accounts of the country’s largest opposition party, the Indian National Congress, just before the Lok Sabha elections,” he said. Expressing shock over the decision, he wrote on X: “Unconstitutional, Money collected by the BJP would be used by them for elections, but the money collected by us through crowdfunding shall be sealed!”