The Editors Guild of India on Thursday expressed concern over the Income Tax Department conducting searches at the office and residence of media baron Raghav Bahl. Bahl is the founder and owner of Quintillion Media Pvt Ltd in Noida, which runs the website The Quint. Quintillion is also an investor in The News Minute, and officers from the department also visited TNM’s office in Bengaluru.
Read the full statement here:
"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 appropriate financial documents.
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. If they do that, then we shall seel extremely strong recourse," Bahl 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 an 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."
Editors Guild of India expresses concern over the search and survey conducted by the Income Tax Department at the offices of The Quint and at the residence of its founder Raghav Bahl. pic.twitter.com/uEaAzMOZyl— Editors Guild of India (@IndEditorsGuild) October 11, 2018
Earlier, a statement put out by Raghav Bahl, said: "I have a matter of great concern to share with the Guild. While I was in Mumbai this morning, dozens of I-T officials descended on my residence and The Quint’s office for a “survey”. 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. I do hope the EG 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. I am now on my way back to Delhi. Warm regards. Raghav."
Tax officers at the TNM office in Bengaluru said that the visit was a ‘survey’ under Section 133a of the I-T Act, and not a search or a raid. The officers asked for financial documents and audit books to be shown to them.
“We are complying with the requests of the officers at our premises,” said Dhanya Rajendran, Editor-in-Chief, The News Minute.