Income Tax officials yesterday, i.e. 14th February 2023 searched the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices and seized phones and laptops, weeks after the UK national broadcaster’s documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the deadly communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 sparked huge controversy.
Tax authorities sealed the offices of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) for a “survey” related to alleged diversion of profits and irregularities in transfer pricing.
The survey will continue until at least tomorrow and officers are expected to search the offices throughout the night. Sources say that Income Tax officials are probing the account details since 2012.
“Income Tax officials are currently at BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and we are co-operating fully. We hope this situation is resolved as soon as possible,” the BBC tweeted.
Documents were confiscated and phones and laptops of journalists were taken away. Six hours after the search began, the employees were only allowed to leave after their laptops were scanned. Visuals showed some of the employees arguing with the officers.
A BBC journalist told NDTV that after asking staff to log in, officials used the keyword “tax” to search for information on the desktop.
In a memo sent to the BBC staff, they have been asked to stay away from people who are not in the office. It has also asked its employees to refrain from commenting on the searches on social media.
Tax officials insisted that it was a survey, not a search, and that the phones would be returned.
Income Tax sources said, “We needed some clarification and for that our team is visiting BBC office and we are conducting a survey. Our officials have gone to check the ledger, it is not a search.” For balance sheet and statement of accounts.
The opposition accused the government of targeting the BBC for airing a documentary critical of Prime Minister Modi on the 2002 riots in Gujarat, when he was chief minister. The Editors Guild of India said the raids were part of a “wider trend of using government agencies to intimidate or harass press organizations critical of government policies”.
The two-part series, “India: The Modi Question”, was pulled from public forums last month. The Center used emergency powers under IT rules to block YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the documentary. The government called the documentary “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage”.
Opposition leaders and students protested what they called blatant censorship by holding public screenings of the documentary, which led to clashes between students, college officials and the police on campus.
Congress leader Jairam remarked, “Here we are asking for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Adani-Hindenburg row, and there the government is harassing the BBC. So he takes the wrong decision)” Ramesh.
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra joked in a tweet: “Report of Income Tax raid at Delhi office of BBC. Wow, really? How unexpected.”
Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav wrote in Hindi, “When a government stands for fear and repression instead of fearlessness, it should realize that the end is near.”
The ruling BJP called the BBC “venomous, superficial and agenda-driven reporting” and said the Income Tax Department should be allowed to do its job. “No person or agency can be above the law. If they are working in India, they need to follow Indian law. If they have not done anything illegal, then what is there to worry about? Opposition Why are the parties defending the agency for being cheap and cheap.” politics,” said BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia. He also mocked the BBC as a “corrupt, rubbish corporation (corrupt, pointless corporation)”.
Last week, the Supreme Court rejected a request for a complete ban on the BBC in India over the documentary, calling the petition “wholly misplaced”.