Illicit payouts to politicians: Birla/Sahara Diaries

Common Cause has approached the Supreme Court regarding bribes paid to prominent politicians by corporate groups. It is feared that the groups, whose premises were raided by the CBI and the Income Tax Department in 2013 and 2014, might go for ‘settlement’ of their cases, amounting to a quite burial of crucial evidence. The Interim Application has been filed in our pending petition challenging the arbitrary appointment of the CVC.

The IA seeks to highlight this burial of evidence as a proof of the doubtful role of the current CVC who held prominent positions as the Chairperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT) and Advisor to the Supreme Court Appointed SIT on Black Money before being appointed as the CVC in 2015.

The IA, filed on 15 November 2016 through its counsel Prashant Bhushan, prays for a thorough investigation and further action on the Sahara/Birla documents -- allegedly detailing illicit payouts to political functionaries -- recovered by the authorities in their raids. Court’s intervention is also sought to preclude any settlement of the corporate groups with the IT Department and returning of the records to the parties in order to prevent destruction of evidence.

The Application alleges that despite sufficient evidence of commission of offences of corruption, bribery, possession of black money, disproportionate assets, and tax violations, both the CBI and the IT Department did not take appropriate action by conducting a thorough scrutiny of their contents.

The IA states that the documents ought to have been shared by the IT Department with the CBI & the SIT on Black Money, since the matter was not limited to Income Tax violations, but included bribery, corruption and possession of black money. After coming in possession of the documents, the Petitioners’ counsel, had addressed letters to the SIT on Black Money, the CVC, the CBI and the CBDT seeking a thorough investigation into the matter. He requested the Chairperson, Income Tax Settlement Commission, on Nov 8, 2016 not to allow any settlement in the cases and to direct the retention of all the seized records with the authorities, so that the evidence gathered could be investigated. 

Common Cause is dedicated to probity in public life and integrity of institutions. Our mandate is to promote democracy, good governance and policy reforms. We pursue our mission through Public Interest Litigations (PILs), democratic interventions and by positive engagement with policy processes.

Some of the prominent PILs of Common Cause have secured breakthrough orders regarding cronyism and criminalization of politics; cancellation of the arbitrary telecom licenses and captive coal block allocations; restoration of the freedom of expression on the Internet; prohibiting laudatory advertisements by politicians in power, to name only a few. (For more details, please click on

(The coal block PIL led to cancellation of 214 allocations and the 2G case resulted in many high-profile arrests, and quashing of 122 telecom licenses amounting to lakhs of crores of rupees) Information about the impact of our PILs can be read on