Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has some explaining to do to Parliament, on why some documents pertaining to a British company list him as a UK national.
On Monday, the Ethics Committee of Parliament served him a show-cause notice, asking him to confirm if he had declared himself as a British citizen during his stay in the UK. BJP veteran LK Advani heads the Ethics Committee.
In response to the notice, Rahul Gandhi reacted with a terse, ‚ÄúWe‚Äôll deal with that.‚ÄĚ
Here‚Äôs a time-line of how the controversy unfolded:
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy wrote to PM Narendra Modi demanding that the government should strip Rahul Gandhi‚Äôs Indian citizenship and parliamentary membership while alleging that he declared himself a British citizen in order to float a private firm in the UK.
In a letter dated November 12, 2015 to the PM, Swamy said, "I am enclosing with this letter some authenticated documents regarding the registration in 2003 and dissolution in 2009 of a Private Ltd. Company in United Kingdom with an address located in London. The name of the company is BACKOPS Limited and the Director and Secretary of this company was Mr. Rahul Gandhi, presently Lok Sabha MP. The incorporation papers of this company No. 4874597 was filed with the Registrar of Companies in England and Wales on August 21, 2003 and the dissolution was on February 17, 2009. Hence I urge you to treat this matter with great urgency and immediately take necessary steps to see if this prima facie evidence is rebuttable, and if not, order that Mr. Rahul Gandhi be stripped of his citizenship, and his membership of the Lok Sabha, forthwith.‚ÄĚ
While Rahul has been declared as an Indian in company documents and other annual returns, he has been mentioned as ‚Äė‚ÄôBritish‚Äô‚Äô with a UK residential address for the returns of 2005, 2006 and 2009.
A defensive Congress admitted in November that it could have been a ‚Äútypographical‚ÄĚ error by an accountant in charge of filing returns. It said, ‚Äúif somebody has committed an error while uploading, it can be corrected. It is correctable‚ÄĚ.
On November 30, 2015, the Supreme Court had struck down a PIL which had sought CBI investigation into the citizenship of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The court had noted that PIL pleas were a medium to alleviate human suffering through good governance and were not meant to target an individual or organization.
In January, BJP‚Äôs Delhi MP Maheish Girri had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan saying, ‚ÄúMany contradictory facts against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi have come up. There is a big mystery over his citizenship now. If he is a citizen of two countries, then it‚Äôs a matter of serious concern. It is very important to clear the speculations hovering‚ÄĚ.
So, what are the facts?
A perusal of UK‚Äôs Companies House records reveals three versions with respect to his nationality: some records relating to Rahul Gandhi‚Äôs company, Backops Limited, show him to be a British national; some other records of the company show him as an Indian national; and a third record shows him as British but with a dubious handwriting change with the word ‚Äė‚ÄôBritish‚Äô‚Äô being scratched out and replaced by ‚Äė‚ÄôIndian‚ÄĚ.
The Companies House has not been available for comment on the existence of these three different records containing discrepancies.
‚ÄúHiding details about the nationality of directors is a fraudulent activity, most probably punishable by a fine‚ÄĚ, said Raj Ruparelia, Principal at Bassetts Chartered Accountants. ‚ÄúThough there are no obvious tax advantages either for the British or Indian company directors. Perhaps some prospective investors and shareholders might be more inclined to invest in a company that is owned by the British directors. But there is evidence here that one of the directors was aware of this discrepancy and was trying to amend it,‚ÄĚ he said.
With the simultaneous existence of three records of differing nationality in relation to his company Backops, Rahul Gandhi seems to be on a sticky wicket and it remains to be seen which way this whole issue pans out.