The Income Tax Department has sent a show-cause notice to Popular Front of India (PFI) to cancel its 12A registration citing its support in the Hadiya case and alleging that the beneficiaries of PFI’s scholarships belong to one particular community.
In a press statement issued by PFI, the organisation has termed the notice as a “witch-hunt” and called the steps being taken by the Income Tax Department and Enforcement Directorate (ED) as “stifling the ongoing activities of Popular Front for empowering the backward and marginalized Indian Muslim community.”
In its notice, the Income Tax Department has alleged that the beneficiaries of PFI’s charitable activities belonged to one particular religious community. In its response, PFI claimed that the organisation has never discriminated any beneficiary based on their caste, religion, language or race. It cited the instance of the organisation donating Rs. 10 lakhs in 2013 to the Chief Minister’s Flood Relief Fund in Uttarakhand and Rs. 5 lakhs in 2018 to Okhi Relief Fund of Chief Minister of Kerala. “This donation cannot be termed as benefiting a particular religious community,” it added.
“The charges levelled against Popular Front in the IT notices are so baseless and flimsy that they only expose the arrogance and prejudices it has co-opted from the agenda of the present BJP government controlled by RSS,” the press release said.
The IT notice also questions PFI over its funding to the lawyers fighting the Hadiya case.
The Hadiya case had come into prominence when her father K.M. Ashokan approached the judiciary alleging his daughter was a victim of ‘love jihad’. Formerly Akhila Ashokan, Hadiya converted to Islam while studying in college in Salem. In January 2016, her father filed a petition in Kerala High Court alleging she was being forcibly converted. Hadiya denied this and the petition was dismissed.
Her father then filed a second petition in the High Court, alleging that Muslim organisations were planning to take his daughter abroad to join ISIS. While the case was ongoing, Hadiyah married Shafin Jahan. The court annulled the marriage, sparking debates on jurisdiction and power of the courts in the personal lives of adults.
Hadiya was legally detained at her parent’s home in Kottayam, Kerala, where she alleged she was tortured. Shafin Jahan then appealed in the Supreme Court, which then restored the marriage, 10 months after the Kerala High Court annulled it.
According to PFI, the IT notice has termed the incident as “religious conversion matter”, which it said tantamounts to “contempt of court”. The Supreme Court in its judgement had said, “Faith of a person is intrinsic to his/her meaningful existence. To have the freedom of faith is essential to his/her autonomy; and it strengthens the core norms of the Constitution.”
“Astonishingly, the onus of some of the listed donors not submitting their IT returns is also put on the shoulders of the organisation. Popular Front has furnished due reply to the said notice through proper channel and is in waiting for equal justice from the IT Department, without prejudice, on par with their approach to other social organisations,” the press release said.