BBC Tax Survey: "Gloves Are Off," Says Opposition, BJP Hits Back

The BJP came down heavily on the British broadcaster, calling it "the most corrupt organisation in the world".

BBC Tax Survey: 'Gloves Are Off,' Says Opposition, BJP Hits Back

Around 20 tax officials searched the BBC's Delhi office.

New Delhi:

Soon after Income Tax officials reached the BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai for a "survey", weeks after a huge controversy over the UK national broadcaster's documentary series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and allegations linked to the 2002 Gujarat riots, opposition leaders took potshots at the Centre, and called the action 'predictable', 'a sign of panic', and a hint that 'their end is near'.

However, the BJP came down heavily on the British broadcaster, calling it "the most corrupt organisation in the world". The ruling party also attacked Congress, saying it supports 'anti-India' narratives.

"If any company or organisation is working in India, they have to comply with the Indian law. Why are you scared if you are adhering to the law? The IT department should be allowed to do their work. BBC is the most corrupt organisation in the world. BBC propaganda matches with Congress agenda," BJP's national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia said in a press conference.

Mr Bhatia further said "BBC's history is black, tarnished, and has been anti-India", and asked Congress to remember that Indira Gandhi had once banned the broadcaster.

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, while taking a "how unexpected" jibe, linked it to allegations of the US-based short-seller Hindenburg group's allegations of Adani group manipulating stocks. Snacks for Adani when he visits the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) office, she said. Ms Moitra has long been calling for the stock market regulator's investigation into Adani group companies.

"Reports of Income Tax raid at BBC's Delhi office

Wow, really? How unexpected. 

Meanwhile farsaan seva for Adani when he drops in for a chat with Chairman @SEBI_India office," she tweeted.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said while they are demanding a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Probe) probe into the Adani issue, the government is going after the BBC. "Vinash kale viprit buddhi (when one's destruction is soon to come, they think unintelligently)," he said.

Congress Rajya Sabha MP KC Venugopal, while condemning the action, said the 'raid reeks of desperation'.

"The IT raid at BBC's offices reeks of desperation and shows that the Modi government is scared of criticism.

We condemn these intimidation tactics in the harshest terms. This undemocratic and dictatorial attitude cannot go on any longer," he tweeted.

Aam Aadmi Party said it's the BJP's "old excuse" that the agency is acting independently. He added that it's a "sign of dictatorship" that the Centre is not ready to listen to criticism.

"Today the central government has abandoned even the minimum sense of shame, and has become a global laughingstock. If you find the BBC documentary wrong, then go to court. You are not adopting any legal methods, it is clear that the central government also knows that the BBC documentary is correct," senior AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj said, adding that BBC has been synonymous with international news in India.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said "their (BJP's) end is near".

"When the government and administration become symbols of fear and oppression instead of fearlessness, then it should be understood that their end is near," he tweeted in Hindi.

BJP's former ally, Nitish Kumar-led JD(U), also criticised the move. 

"What kind of democracy is this? Whoever speaks or writes against them, will meet the same fate. Whoever wants to speak or write, must first show them the content, or face dire consequences.

After all, how much and for how long will the government @narendramodi misuse government parrots?" JD(U) national president Rajiv Ranjan Singh aka Lalan Singh tweeted in Hindi.

Mehbooba Mufti of the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the government is "brazenly hounding" those who "speak the truth".

"Cause & effect of raids on the BBC Office is quite obvious. GOI is brazenly hounding those who speak the truth. Be it opposition leaders, media, activists or anyone else for that matter. The gloves are off & there is a price one pays for fighting for truth," she said.

Shiv Sena Uddhav Thackeray camp leader, and Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Raut said the timing of the raid established that India is "losing its democratic image".

"Timing of the Raids on BBC no more suggests, but establishes, that India is fast losing its Democratic Image. India's Democracy is under seige. Judiciary and Journalism are the last surviving bastions. 

We will fight to the last drop of our blood for Indian Democracy!
Jay Hind!" he tweeted.

CPI(M) MP John Brittas called it predictable, and wondered how UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would respond.

"Wasn't it predictable?! What will be the response of Rishi Sunak?" he tweeted.

CPI Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam called it a "killing spree of a frightened government to strangle the voice of truth".

"Raid on BBC!They call it survey!This survey is  killing spree of a frightened strangle the voice of is witnessing it.When Modi preside over G - 20,they will ask about India's record on  freedom of press. Can he reply  truth fully ? (sic)," he tweeted.

The searches are in view of "the BBC's deliberate non-compliance with the Transfer Pricing Rules and its vast diversion of profits of international taxation", sources said.

"In the case of the BBC, there has been persistent non-compliance with the above-mentioned rules for years. As a result of the same, several notices have been issued to the BBC. However, the BBC has been continuously defiant and non-compliant and has been significantly diverted their profits. 

The key focus of these surveys is to look into manipulation of prices for unauthorised benefits, including tax advantages. These surveys have been undertaken due to BBC's persistent non-compliance of the norms, making it a repeat offender," official sources said.

Around 20 tax officials searched the BBC's Delhi office. In Mumbai, BBC Studios, that deals with production, was searched.

Documents were seized and phones and laptops of journalists were taken away, the sources said. The offices will be sealed for the duration of the survey, and employees have been asked not to share details with anyone.

Tax officials said this was a survey, not a search, and that the phones would be returned.

"We needed some clarifications and for that our team is visiting the BBC office, and we are carrying out a survey. Our officers have gone to check account books, these are not searches," Income Tax sources asserted.

(Disclaimer: New Delhi Television is a subsidiary of AMG Media Networks Limited, an Adani Group Company.)