The Income Tax (IT) department on early Thursday morning carried out searches at the residence and other premises of media baron Raghav Bahl in connection with a reported case of tax evasion.
Bahl is the founder and promoter of The Quint, a news portal.
The IT sleuths raided the Bahal's residence in Noida and the office of Quintillion Media, which runs The Quint, to conduct “searches and survey.”
At this time, Bahl was in Mumbai.
The taxmen were “looking for documents and other evidence related to a case under probe,” a news agency quoted an IT department official as saying.
The officer also said that the searches were conducted at the premises of “a few other people” as part of the department's action to probe a reported tax evasion “by a set of business professionals.”
“IT officers are trying to clone data from @kapur_ritu's gadgets. When she screamed and asked me about the law of privacy and whether they can clone her journalistic and personal material, while I was standing outside her residence, two IT officers pulled her inside the house,” Poonam Agarwal, associate editor with The Quint, tweeted.
Ritu Kapur is co-founder and the chief executive officer of The Quint.
EGI expresses concern
The Editors Guild of India (EGI) later expressed concern over the IT department's action at the offices of The Quint and at the residence of its founder and promoter.
“The guild believes that motivated income-tax searches and surveys will seriously undermine media freedom and the government should desist from such attempts,” the EGI said in a statement.
In a statement, Bahl said dozens of IT officials descended on his residence and The Quint's office for a ”survey” on Thursdsay morning, while he was in Mumbai.
“We are 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,” he said.
Bahl, a member of the executive committee of the EGI, hoped that the guild will back him on the issue and set a precedence for any such exercise that may happen on any other journalistic entity in the future.
“The guild is 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 serious and sensitive journalistic material,” EGI said.