The Income Tax department’s marathon “surveys” at BBC’s offices ended on Thursday, after clocking nearly 60 hours, as officials took with them an inventory of financial data from select staffers and cloned electronic data.
The operation that began at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offices in Delhi and Mumbai around 11:30 am on Tuesday, ended just after 10 PM Thursday, sources said. Tax authorities have made and taken an inventory of the available stock, recorded the statement of some staffers and have impounded some documents as part of the survey action that continued for three days clocking about 57-58 hours, officials told PTI.
Tax officials were seen carrying some bags as they exited the BBC office at KG Marg in central Delhi in multiple four-wheelers.
The BBC News Press Team said in a statement, “Income Tax Authorities have left out offices in Delhi and Mumbai. We will continue to cooperate with the authorities and hope matters are resolved as soon as possible.” “We are supporting staff- some of whom have faced lengthy questioning or been required to stay overnight -and their welfare is our priority.” “Our output is back to normal and we remain committed to serving our audiences in India and beyond,” the BBC said.
“The BBC is a trusted, independent media organisation and we stand by our colleagues and journalists who will continue to report without fear or favour,” it said.
The survey was carried out to investigate issues related to international taxation and transfer pricing of BBC subsidiary companies, they had said.
The I-T teams, it is understood, sought answers on financial transactions, the company structure and other details about the news firm, and copied data from electronic gadgets as part of their task of collecting the evidence.
Opposition parties have denounced the I-T department action against the London-headquartered public broadcaster, terming it “political vendetta”.
On Tuesday, the ruling BJP had accused the BBC of “venomous reporting” while the Opposition had questioned the timing of the action that came weeks after the broadcaster aired a two-part documentary “India: The Modi Question” on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat riots.
There has been no official statement from the Income Tax department on the action.
A BBC staffer in Delhi said they were broadcasting their news like usual and the company has informed them that it is cooperating with the authorities.
The Supreme Court last week dismissed a plea seeking the imposition of a complete ban on the BBC in India in the wake of the controversial documentary, terming the petition “entirely misconceived” and “absolutely meritless”.
Another set of petitions challenging the government’s decision to block the documentary’s access on social media platforms will be heard in April. On January 21, the government had issued directions to block multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the documentary.