India: Income Tax Surveys at BBC Offices Enter Day 3

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The Wire India  16 February 2023

In the 48 hours since the surveys started, various journalists’ bodies and independent observers – globally and within the country – have expressed deep concern with the move and its timing.

Income Tax Surveys at BBC Offices Enter Day 3

New Delhi: ‘Surveys’ by officials of the Income Tax department at the New Delhi and Mumbai offices of the British Broadcasting Corporation are still on at 11 am on February 16, almost 48 hours after they first started at 11.20 am on February 14.

The move comes weeks after the BBC released a documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots titled, ‘India: The Modi Question.’

On Thursday, members of the Hindutva body the Hindu Sena – which once made news for organising a birthday party for former US president Donald Trump – gathered at the BBC’s New Delhi office to stage an agitation in support of the surveys.

 

In the intervening period since the surveys started, various journalists’ bodies and independent observers – globally and within the country – have expressed deep concern with the move and its timing.

 

Unnamed Indian government sources and named representatives have also spoken to chosen publications, alleging that the survey is “follow up and not vindictive” (as reported by Reuters) and that it is being carried out to “investigate issues related to international taxation and transfer pricing of BBC subsidiary companies” (as reported by Times of India).

Reuters has further reported that BBC World Service director Liliane Landor sent an internal memo yesterday, saying the Income Tax Department was conducting a survey of the organisation’s “tax status and affairs in India”, with which the BBC was cooperating fully.

“If you are asked to meet with the officers you should answer their questions honestly and directly. Questions about the BBC’s structure, activities, organisation, and operations in India are within the remit of the investigation and should be answered,” Landor said in the note, which was reportedly seen by Reuters.

“It goes without saying that you should not delete or conceal any information on any of your devices.”

“It is important to note that no indiscriminate seizure of mobiles, laptops and digital gadgets can be done at will by the tax officials during a survey. Only books of accounts and documents can be impounded subject to a reasoned order,” advocate Deepak Joshi noted in an analysis for The Wire.