The shocking revelation that the Uttar Pradesh exchequer has been paying the income tax of Chief Ministers and their Ministers since 1981 has left all political parties in shock.
A report published in a daily on Friday stated that the Chief Minister and his Ministers were deemed to be "poor" and "cannot pay income tax from their own meagre earnings".
The law, Uttar Pradesh Ministers' Salaries, Allowances and Miscellaneous Act, 1981, was enacted when Vishwanath Pratap Singh was the state's Chief Minister.
Since then, 19 chief ministers, including Yogi Adityanath, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati, Kalyan Singh, Ram Prakash Gupta, Rajnath Singh, Sripati Misra, Veer Bahadur Singh and Narain Dutt Tiwari have availed the benefits of the law.
When contacted, none of the spokespersons of various political parties were ready to comment on the issue.
"Let us discuss and then we will comment on this," said a Samajwadi Party leader.
A veteran Congress leader said that though the V.P. Singh government had enacted the law, the maximum beneficiaries were the non-Congress governments.
"Besides, in the early 80s, political leaders came from poor backgrounds and their salaries were also meagre. The non-Congress governments that came later and raised the salaries of Chief Ministers and Ministers should have repealed the Act," he added.
A Bharatiya Janata Party Minister however, said that he was not even aware of this perk until now.
"I do not have the time to check my accounts but we will see what is to be done now,"
A section of the Act says that "the salary referred to in sub-sections (1) and (2) shall be exclusive of the tax payable in respect of such salary (including perquisites) under any law relating to income tax for the time being in force, and such tax shall be borne by the state".
While getting the Act passed by the state Assembly then, V.P .Singh had told the House that the state government should bear the income tax burden as most ministers were from poor backgrounds and had meagre incomes.
The Uttar Pradesh Treasury has paid income tax dues of nearly 1,000 Chief Ministers and ministers since 1981.
Even members of the Yogi government have had their income tax deposited from the Treasury in the last two financial years. This financial year, the income tax bill of Adityanath and his Council of Ministers was around Rs 86 lakh and was paid from the state Treasury.
Interestingly, majority of ministers, according to the affidavits filed by them during elections, own movable and immovable assets worth crores of rupees.
Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary (Finance) Sanjiv Mittal has confirmed that income tax bills of the Chief Minister and his Council of Ministers were paid by the state government as mandated under the 1981 Act.