I-T officials are understood to be making copies of electronic and paper-based financial data of the organisation, officials said Wednesday.
“It could be linked to TDS (tax deduction at source), foreign taxation… There could be several issues. The raids are still ongoing,” a source in the tax department said without elaborating and added that a clear picture will emerge once the survey is over. A survey under I-T rules involves inspection of a business premises.
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.
I-T officials arrived at the broadcaster’s offices in the two metros around 11am on Tuesday. Police sealed off the BBC’s New Delhi office, which occupies two floors of a high-rise on KG Marg in central Delhi. Some mobile phones and laptops of BBC staffers were impounded and cloned as part of the operation, officials had said.
The BBC said it is cooperating with officials to quickly resolve the situation.
The developments come shortly after the broadcaster aired a documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots in the UK.
The I-T action has drawn sharp criticism from journalists’ bodies and opposition parties, who claimed infringement on freedom of press, and an attack on democracy itself. BJP on the other hand said the BBC documentary is a part of “anti-Modi plot.”
The United States on Tuesday said it is aware of the survey operation conducted by the Indian tax authorities at the BBC office in Delhi but is not in a position to offer its judgement.
“We are aware of the search of the BBC offices in Delhi by Indian tax authorities. I would need to refer you to Indian authorities for the details of this search,” state department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters in Washington.
“We support the importance of free press around the world. We continue to highlight the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief as human rights that contribute to strengthening democracies around the world. It has strengthened this democracy here in this country. It has strengthened India’s democracy,” he added.
The UK government said it is “closely monitoring” the situation, although there has been no official statement.