The Income-Tax department on Saturday denied harassing Karnataka Congress leader G. Parameshwara's aide N.S. Ramesh who committed suicide earlier in the day citing alleged harassment in connection with tax raids on his boss since October 10.
"No search was done at the residence of Ramesh and no statement was recorded from him under section 131 or section 132(4) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 from him," the I-T department said in a statement here hours after the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) blamed the I-T office for Ramesh's death earlier in the day.
The department, however, admitted that Ramesh, 38, was present in Parameshwara's house in the upscale Sadashivnagar suburb in the city's northwest during the search and seizure operation that began on October 10 morning and concluded at 2:45 a.m. on October 12.
"Ramesh was present in Parameshwara's residence throughout the search proceedings. His presence was recorded in the 'panchnama'," claimed the statement.
Refuting the opposition party's charges against its officials, the department said when its teams of sleuths reached Parameshwara's residence on October 10, he was not present.
"His (Parameshwara's) wife informed the teams that he (her husband) has gone to Korategere to attend a function. Our team reached Korategere and escorted him to his residence. Ramesh, who had gone along with Parameshwar to Korategere also accompanied him back to his residence in the city," asserted the statement.
Korategere is the Assembly segment of Parameshwara in Tumakuru district, about 70 kms northwest of Bengaluru.
In a series of tweets, the party's state unit blamed the department for driving Ramesh to suicide by allegedly grilling him about rregularities in the accounts of the Siddharth group of educational institutions of Parameshwara and his family, suspected tax evasion and undisclosed income disproportionate to the sources of income.
In mysterious circumstances, a security guard spotted Ramesh's body hanging from a tree in the university's sprawling campus.
"Ramesh was found hanging by a tree branch in the university campus. He was under pressure after the I-T sleuths quizzed him in connection with the tax raids," party spokesman Ravi Gowda told IANS here.
Ramesh, who hails from Ramanagaram town, about 40 km southwest of Bengaluru on the state highway towards Mysuru, leaves behind his parents, wife and a son.
Condemning the raids, KPCC tweeted that the "I-T dept (department) claims second victim in (the) state after (V.G.) Siddharth".
"Harassment from @BJP4India controlled I-T dept has claimed life of Ramesh. In its rush to pester (the) opposition, they (I-T officials) have surpassed all levels of humanity and repeatedly exceeded its (their) mandate. This is condemnable & unheard of," tweeted KPCC.
Cafe Coffee Day founder-chairman Siddharth reportedly committed suicide on July 29 by jumping from a road bridge into a river near Mangaluru on the state's west coast, allegedly due to harassment by tax sleuths.
Expressing condolences, the KPCC said in another tweet that "Ramesh was allegedly harassed & hounded to commit suicide by (the) I-T dept, which is unleashing a tax terrorism on the common man.
"The I-T dept in cahoots with @BJP4India have a one-point agenda, which is to target opposition leaders & harass innocent people," said the party.
Expressing shock over Ramesh's tragic death, Parameshwara told reporters at his residence here that he had advised the former not to unduly worry over the raids and his grilling by the tax sleuths and nothing would happen to him.
Ramesh worked as a computer operator at the KPCC for over a decade and became Parameshwara's PA since he relinquished the party's state unit President's post five years ago and became a minister in the previous Congress government.
Parameshwara, 68, was the Deputy Chief Minister in the 14-month JDS-Congress coalition government.