Income Tax dept summons G. Parameshwara for questioning on Tuesday

BENGALURU: The Income Tax Investigation Wing in Bengaluru have summoned Karnataka‘s senior Congress leader and former Deputy CM G Parameshwara for questioning on Tuesday in connection with the large volumes of undisclosed cash transactions in the two medical colleges controlled by his family in the medical admissions two months ago the officials have found during a raid on Thursday and Friday.

The Congress MLA from Koratagere in Tumakuru district told reporters on Saturday that though he has been a member on the Board of the medical colleges, he has not been involved in the day to day affairs of the colleges and the admission process. “I don’t know much about the admissions process. I could not involve much in the affairs of the educational institutions due to my preoccupation with politics.” The former Dy CM said he has provided replies to the I-T department officials and will clarify on their queries on Tuesday

Parameshwara did not wish to give political colour to the Income Tax investigations, and said he will do his best to provide satisfactory replies to the queries being raised by the investigators.

The I-T department investigators have, meanwhile, estimated size of the scam in medical admissions in Karnataka, which it has termed as undisclosed income, at about Rs. 100 crore.

The I-T investigation officials ended on Friday their two-day simultaneous raids at several places in Karnataka and Delhi, including on the residence Parameshwara and the medical colleges controlled by him and his late brother’s family in Tumakuru district. They also raided people connected with Devaraj Urs Medical College in Kolar district.

The department, in a press release on Friday, said the three medical colleges affiliated to separate deemed universities in Karnataka allegedly collected between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 65 lakh per medical seat. The department also revealed that its officials have seized about Rs 8.82 crore. The persons behind the tax evasion invested part of the undisclosed sum in the real estate, the press release said.

The raids followed complaints from some students. The officials found cash, and papers pointing to cash transactions on a large scale related to medical admissions under the management quota in August. The alleged transactions pertained to Sri Siddhartha Medical College (SSMC) and Sri Siddhartha Academy of Higher Education (SSAHE), both in Tumakuru district and controlled by the Congress leader’s family, and Devaraj Urs Medical College, controlled by the family members of the late minister RL Jalappa. The three medical colleges come under two different deemed universities.

I-T department officials found evidence suggesting links between cash transactions and medical admissions, an official said. A college can admit students to MBBS seats only after they clear the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).

Only those candidates who clear the NEET are eligible to claim medical seats either in their respective states or in medical colleges run by deemed universities. While state governments conduct seat allotment process for government-quota seats in private medical colleges affiliated to their universities, the Centre has its own process for candidates seeking admission in deemed universities. Both processes happen based on NEET ranking.

According to tax officials, many people have, in the past, enrolled themselves for the seat selection process both at the state and at the national level. Students admitted to seats under the government quota in a state pay a concessional fee. In deemed universities, students pay a higher fee at the single-window admission at the national level.

Agents of deemed universities, according to the IT official, would usually approach several NEET toppers who are interested only in a free seat in their respective states, and persuade them to enrol for the national seat-selection process, too, and block seats in their colleges. These candidates would, however, not join the colleges, and the seats under the merit quota would lapse. Regulations allow such lapsed seats to go back to the deemed universities to be filled under the management quota.

In the just-concluded admissions season, SSMC and SSA admitted 87 students, and 67 students, respectively, to such lapsed seats. The Devaraja Urs Medical College in Kolar made 29 such admissions, officials said. The I-T teams also conducted raids on associates, trustees, and executives involved in the admission process, besides agents who allegedly arranged students in return for a commission, officials said.

The I-T department deployed about 150 officials who conducted searches at 28 premises in Bengaluru, Tumakuru and Kolar in Karnataka, as well as in Delhi. They searched the residence of Parameshwara’s nephew, GS Anand, as well. The investigators are likely to probe the admissions made to management quota in the previous years, too.

The investigations were led by director-general (investigation) Pathanjali, along with principal director (investigation) R Ravichandran and additional director (investigation) B Saravanan.

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