In­come Tax raids on premises of The Quint founder Raghav Bahl

Mo­ti­vated searches will un­der­mine me­dia free­dom: Ed­i­tors Guild

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - FC BUREAU

THE In­come Tax Depart­ment searched me­dia baron Raghav Bahl’s home and of­fice on Thurs­day in con­nec­tion with a case of al­leged tax eva­sion, of­fi­cials said.

A team of I-T sleuths raided The Quint founder’s premises in Noida early morn­ing and are look­ing for doc­u­ments and other ev­i­dence re­lated to a case of “bo­gus long term cap­i­tal gains (LTCG) re­ceived by var­i­ous ben­e­fi­cia­ries”, they said. Apart from Bahl, three other “ben­e­fi­cia­ries” and pro­fes­sion­als, J Lal­wani, Anoop Jain and Ab­hi­manyu, are be­ing searched as part of the same ac­tion. Their busi­ness links to off­shore en­ti­ties are be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, the of­fi­cials said.

LTCG is broadly de­fined as the tax paid on profit gen­er­ated by an as­set such as real es­tate, shares or share­ori­ented prod­ucts held for a par­tic­u­lar time-frame.

Bahl, who was in Mum­bai at the time, said in an­other state­ment to the me­dia, that he was on his way to Delhi and his wife and mother were con­fined to the res­i­dence and not al­lowed to speak to any­body. The Quint re­ported that dur­ing raids at Bahl’s res­i­dence the I-T of­fi­cers at­tempted to clone data from his wife Ritu Kapur’s gad­gets which is not au­tho­rised un­der the pow­ers of the sur­vey.

Bahl shared his “great con­cern” with the Ed­i­tors Guild and said dozens of IT of­fi­cials de­scended on his res­i­dence and The Quint’s of­fice for a sur­vey”. “We are a fully tax com­pli­ant en­tity, and will pro­vide all ac­cess to all ap­pro­pri­ate fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments. How­ever, I have just spo­ken to the of­fi­cer on my premises, one Mr Ya­dav, and re­quested him, strongly, to not try and pick up or see any other mail/doc­u­ment which is likely to con­tain very se­ri­ous/sen­si­tive jour­nal­is­tic ma­te­rial.”

They should also not mis­use their smart­phones to take unau­tho­rised copies of the ma­te­rial, he said. If they do that, he will seek “ex­tremely strong re­course”, Bahl said in the state­ment posted on his of­fi­cial Twit­ter han­dle. “I do hope the EG will back us on this, and thereby set a prece­dent for any such ex­er­cise that may hap­pen on any other jour­nal­is­tic en­tity in the fu­ture,” he said.

Bahl is a mem­ber of the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee of the Ed­i­tors Guild of In­dia and the Guild ex­pressed con­cern over the raid. It said it was per­turbed over Bahl’s state­ment that he had to strongly ad­vise the tax of­fi­cials against pick­ing up or see­ing any other mail or doc­u­ment which is likely to con­tain very se­ri­ous and sen­si­tive jour­nal­is­tic ma­te­rial. “While the tax ad­min­is­tra­tion is within its rights to make in­quiries in com­pli­ance with the rel­e­vant laws, it should not ex­er­cise those pow­ers in a way that could be seen as an in­tim­i­da­tion of the gov­ern­ment’s crit­ics. The Guild be­lieves that mo­ti­vated in­come-tax searches and sur­veys will se­ri­ously un­der­mine me­dia free­dom and the gov­ern­ment should de­sist from such at­tempts,” it said.

The me­dia fra­ter­nity con­demned the raid and de­manded that the gov­ern­ment “ex­plain” the rea­sons be­hind it. They termed it “in­tim­i­da­tion” and an “at­tack on the free­dom of press.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.