- Tax raids were conducted in connection with "tax evasion": Report
- Will provide access to all appropriate financial documents: Raghav Bahl
- Mr Bahl is the founder of the Quint news portal and the Network18 group
Leading media owner Raghav Bahl's home and the office of his news portal "The Quint" in Noida were raided this morning by Income Tax officials.
Raghav Bahl, in a statement to the Editor's Guild, said: "I have a matter of great concern to share with the Guild. While I was in Mumbai this morning, dozens of IT officials descended on my residence and The Quint's office for a 'survey'."
Stating that he was heading back to Delhi, Mr Bahl stressed, "We are a fully tax compliant entity, and will provide all access to all appropriate financial documents."
He said he had spoken to the officer on his premises and requested him, strongly, to not try and pick up or see any mail or document that was likely to contain very serious or sensitive journalistic material. "If they do that, then we shall seek extremely strong recourse. I do hope the EG (Editor's Guild) will back us on this, and thereby set a precedent for any such exercise that may happen on any other journalistic entity in the future. They should also not misuse their smartphones to take unauthorised copies of this material."
Mr Bahl also said that his wife and mother were confined to their home and were not being allowed to speak to anybody. "I have got little else to go on right now," he said in a statement to the media.
Expressing concern over the raids, the Editors Guild of India, in a statement, said, "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 intimidation of the government's critics. The Guild believes that motivated income tax searches and surveys will seriously undermine media freedom and the government should desist from such attempts."
News agency Press Trust of India quoted officials as saying that the searches were in connection with "tax evasion". Searches are being carried out on a few more people as part of the Income Tax Department's investigation of tax evasion by business professionals, PTI said.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, asked about the raids and whether they were an attempt to suppress the media, said: "We believe in freedom of press and democratic values. If any media house is involved in corruption, they have to answer."
Raghav Bahl, one of the biggest names in Indian media, is the founder of The Quint and the Network18 group.
Concern and anger over the raids reflected in multiple tweets on social media.
Senior journalist Shekhar Gupta expressed serious concern, saying the raids looked like intimidation of media critical to the government.
I.T raids on @TheQuint offices and its founder @Raghav_Bahl home are cause for serious concern. Taxman has the right to ask all questions, but raids look like intimidation. If there is justification, govt must explain quickly. Or it will be seen as targeting critical media.— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) October 11, 2018
Journalist Ashutosh, who quit the Aam Aadmi Party recently, tweeted: "Raghav is one of the most credible media personalities. Now he is paying the price for being anti-establishment, criticising Modi Government."
(With inputs from Agencies)