The Income Tax Department’s action against the Congress’ bank accounts is part of a routine recovery process, The Times of India quoted unidentified government sources as saying.

On Friday, the Congress announced that its bank accounts had been frozen on “flimsy grounds” and that the action had hampered all the party’s political activities. Later in the day, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal allowed the Congress to operate its bank accounts but ordered it to maintain Rs 115 crore as lien, effectively freezing these funds.

A lien is a legal claim against the assets of an individual or business accused of having failed to meet tax liabilities.

The government sources said that the Income Tax Department has not frozen any of the Congress’ bank accounts and only the amount of Rs 115 crore has been attached as part of the recovery process. The Congress’ treasurer Ajay Maken, however, said that the amount is “much more than [what] we have in our current accounts”.

The government sources, however, said that rules have been applied to the Congress as they are for all taxpayers.

“What has happened is a routine procedure, something that every tax paying citizen has to face if they default on taxes,” the sources said, according to The Hindu. “If they don’t pay up, due process will happen to the assessee.”

The accounts were frozen on an Income Tax demand of Rs 210 crore for the financial year 2018-’19, the Congress said. It alleged that the tax department’s action weeks before the Lok Sabha election were an instance of “vendetta politics” and amounted to an assault on democracy.

Maken said that the party does not have money even for regular expenses such as paying salaries and electricity bills. “On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party has all the money it got from corporate bonds – which the Supreme Court held as unconstitutional – and is using it,” he said. “How can democracy remain alive in India in this situation?”

On Thursday, the Supreme Court struck down the electoral bonds scheme, ruling that it is unconstitutional as it violates the right to information, freedom of speech and could lead to quid pro quo arrangements between donors and political parties.

According to the annual audit reports of political parties, electoral bonds worth Rs 12,979 crore had been sold in 26 tranches between 2018 and April 2023.

Of this, the BJP received bonds worth Rs 6,566.12 crore – more than 50%. The Congress got bonds worth over Rs 1,123.29 crore.