The Editors Guild of India expressed concerns over the ‘search and survey’ by Income Tax officials at the offices of news website The Quint and The News Minute, and the residence of TQ founder Raghav Bahl on Thursday.
“The Editors Guild of India expresses concern over the search and survey conducted by the Income Tax Department today at the offices of The Quint, a media company, and at the residence of its founder and promoter, Raghav Bahl,” said a statement issued today.
“Bahl is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Editors Guild of India and a founder of the Network18 group. In his statement, Bahl has said that ‘we are a fully tax compliant entity, and will provide all access to all appropriate financial documents’,” the statement said.
“The Guild is also perturbed over Bahl’s statement that he had to strongly advise the tax officials that they should not try and pick up or see any other mail or document which is likely to contain very serious and sensitive journalistic material,” the statement said.
“If they do that, then we shall seek extremely strong recourse”, Bahl has stated.
“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 statement read.
“The Guild believes that motivated income-tax searches and surveys will seriously undermine media freedom and the government should desist from such attempts,” the statement said.
Earlier, IT officials conducted a ‘survey’ on The Quint’s office in Noida and the media organisation’s founder Raghav Bahl’s home, Bahl said, as per a report in Scroll .
The IT officials ‘surveyed’ The Quint Type office including The Quint and The News Minute, sources inside The Quint disclosed to Free Press Kashmir Thursday.
Upon entering the office, the officials had asked the people to stop working and give up their phones. However, after briefly exchanging words about the nature of journalistic work, the officials agreed for them to continue, sources told FPK.
The IT team of officials are still inside the office and are searching the files of the office, sources said to FPK.
The visit is reportedly in connection with an alleged tax evasion case.
“While I was in Mumbai this morning, dozens of Income Tax officials descended on my residence and The Quint’s office for a ‘survey’,” said Bahl. “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. If they do that, then we shall seek extremely strong recourse…They should also not misuse their smartphones to take unauthorised copies of this material.”
The officials also ‘surveyed’ the office of The News Minute in Bengaluru. Quintillion is an investor in media firm. The officials asked for financial documents and audit books. “We are complying with the requests of the officers at our premises,” said Dhanya Rajendran, Editor-in-Chief, The News Minute.