The Income Tax Department searched media baron Raghav Bahl’s home and office on Thursday in connection with a case of alleged tax evasion, officials said.
A team of I-T sleuths raided The Quint founder’s premises in Noida early morning and are looking for documents and other evidence related to a case of “bogus long term capital gains (LTCG) received by various beneficiaries”, they said. Apart from Bahl, three other “beneficiaries” and professionals, J Lalwani, Anoop Jain and Abhimanyu, are being searched as part of the same action. Their business links to offshore entities are being investigated, the officials said.
LTCG is broadly defined as the tax paid on profit generated by an asset such as real estate, shares or share-oriented products held for a particular time-frame.
Bahl, who was in Mumbai at the time, said in another statement to the media, that he was on his way to Delhi and his wife and mother were confined to the residence and not allowed to speak to anybody. The Quint reported that during raids at Bahl’s residence the I-T officers attempted to clone data from his wife Ritu Kapur’s gadgets which is not authorised under the powers of the survey.
Bahl shared his “great concern” with the Editors Guild and said dozens of IT officials descended on his 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.”
They should also not misuse their smartphones to take unauthorised copies of the material, he said. If they do that, he will seek “extremely strong recourse”, Bahl said in the statement posted on his official Twitter handle. “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,” he said.
Bahl is a member of the Executive Committee of the Editors Guild of India and the Guild expressed concern over the raid. It said it was perturbed over Bahl’s statement that he had to strongly advise the tax officials against picking up or seeing any other mail or document which is likely to contain very serious and sensitive journalistic material. “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,” it said.
The media fraternity condemned the raid and demanded that the government “explain” the reasons behind it. They termed it “intimidation” and an “attack on the freedom of press.”