Income Tax searches at BBC India offices continue for second day

BBC headquarters in London. [Photo: Wikimedia]

New Delhi: The Income Tax department ‘survey operation’ against BBC India continued for the second day with the sleuths making copies of electronic and paper-based financial data of the organisation, officials told PTI on Wednesday.

The tax department had launched the action on Tuesday at the BBC’s Delhi and Mumbai offices along with at least two linked premises as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion against the British broadcaster in India.

Sleuths knocked at the doors of the BBC around 11:30 am on Tuesday and they are still present, sources aware of the development told PTI.

The tax officials are speaking to staffers of the BBC in the finance and some other departments even as other staffers and journalists were allowed to leave Tuesday night.

Some computer peripherals and mobile phones were cloned as part of the operation, the news agency reported quoting officials.

The searches came weeks after a major uproar over the BBC documentary series on Modi and claims relating to the 2002 Gujarat violence.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Indian authorities to stop ‘harassing journalists’ after tax officials ‘raided’ the offices of BBC.

“Raiding the BBC’s India offices in the wake of a documentary criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi smacks of intimidation,” Beh Lih Yi, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator, said in a statement.

“Indian authorities have used tax investigations as a pretext to target critical news outlets before, and must cease harassing BBC employees immediately, in line with the values of freedom that should be espoused in the world’s largest democracy,” he said.

Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea seeking a complete ban on BBC in India over its documentary on Modi and allegations linked to the 2002 Gujarat violence. The court called the plea “entirely misconceived”.

“How can a documentary affect the country,” the Supreme Court questioned, rejecting a petition by Hindu Sena chief Vishnu Gupta seeking a ban on Britain’s national broadcaster operating in India.

“Completely misconceived, how can this be argued also? You want us to put complete censorship? What is this?” asked a two-judge bench.

The judges said: “Let us not waste any more time. The writ petition is entirely misconceived and has no merit. Thus, dismissed.”

Pertinently, in a documentary released by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), it has been claimed that a team sent by the British government to investigate the 2002 violence in Gujarat found Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister of the state, “directly responsible for a climate of impunity” that led to the violence.

The documentary titled “India: The Modi Question”, was, however, pulled down from YouTube on Wednesday, a day after its release.

The British inquiry team alleged that Modi had prevented the Gujarat Police from acting to stop violence targeted at Muslims, the BBC documentary claimed.

Speaking to the BBC, former foreign secretary, Jack Straw (2001-2006) said he was personally involved in the investigations as the data and results provided were alarming.

“I was very worried about it. I took a great deal of personal interest because India is an important country with whom we (the UK) have relations. And so, we had to handle it very carefully,” Straw told the BBC, adding, “What we did was establish an inquiry and have a team go to Gujarat and find out for themselves what had happened. And they produced a very thorough report.”

A former British diplomat, who remains anonymous, described the whole event as a pogrom. To our readers, a pogrom is a term used when there is an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group. In this case, it was the Muslims, the former diplomat said.

“At least 2000 people were murdered during the violence where the vast majority were Muslims. We described it as a pogrom– a deliberate, and politically driven effort targeted at the Muslim community,” the former diplomat told the BBC.

Click to comment
To Top