Income tax department conducts 'survey' at BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai

MUMBAI: The Income Tax (IT) Department today conducted 'surveys' at the Delhi and Mumbai premises of the London-based national broadcaster of the United Kingdom, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and although there was no official announcement of the visit from either side, according to news reports the action could be due to allegations of non-compliance with transfer pricing rules involving diverting of profits from the Indian entity. 

IT officials at the survey sites were tightlipped and were not available for comments, however, it's reportedly said that laptops, mobile phones and other digital equipment of the employees and staff of BBC were checked by the officials and a few of them were asked not the leave the premises without their permission.

Experts say that although not a very routine kind of procedure, IT surveys are essentially not IT raids. Chartered accountant and tax expert Santosh Poojari said that IT officers of respective jurisdiction have the power to visit a premise of a business to check books of accounts if there is information that certain could be concealed. 

He said that 'surveys' under Section 133A of the IT Act according to the definition could be conducted only at the place of business and only during its official working hours and the officer has the powers to inspect books of accounts, verify cash, stock or other valuables.

Later in the day BBC tweeted about the IT survey from the handle @BBCNewsPR saying, 'The Income Tax Authorities are currently at the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and we are fully cooperating. We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible.'

BBC correspondent George Wright also posted an article on the IT survey with the heading BBC India offices searched by income tax officials then said its a part of an investigation by the IT authorities. The article says, "The searches in New Delhi and Mumbai come weeks after the broadcaster aired a documentary in the UK critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi"

Wright says, "The documentary focused on the prime minister's role in anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in 2002, when he was chief minister of the state" and further writes, "Although the documentary was broadcast on television only in the UK, India's government has attempted to block people sharing India: The Modi Question online, calling it "hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage" with a "colonial mindset."

The Editors Guild of India has issued a statement saying that it was deeply concerned about the IT 'surveys' being carried out at the offices of BBC India and mentioned that this coming after BBC released two documentaries on the 2002 violence in Gujarat and the current status of the minorities in India. 

EGI also tweeted, "Is distressed by the continuing trend of government agencies being used to intimidate and harass news organisations that are critical of the ruling establishment."

Ever since the documentary was released by the BBC, the BJP has been maintaining that it was a propaganda exercise against the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi which has been unleashed as per an agenda. 

The opposition has however slammed the visit by IT department, MP and Congress party general secretary K C Venugopal tweeted, "The IT raid at BBC’s offices reeks of desperation and shows that the Modi government is scared of criticism. We condemn these intimidation tactics in the harshest terms. This undemocratic and dictatorial attitude cannot go on any longer."



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