A team of the Income Tax department conducted separate “survey operations” at the offices of news media organisations Newslaundry and NewsClick on Friday (September 10, 2021). According to news agency PTI, unnamed officials said that they were conducting operations at the business premises of the two organisations to verify certain tax payment details and remittances made by them.
They also clarified that the I-T department team was not conducting “raids.”
At the office of Newslaundry, this was the second search operation after the first one was conducted in June.
“Surveys have been carried out in the case of both Newslaundry and NewsClick. The department’s officials conducted surveys on their premises in Delhi on charges of tax evasion,” an official was quoted as saying by a leading news portal.
The search went on for nearly 12 hours and all laptops, phones, and a couple of office machines were seized by the officials.
As per the Income Tax Act, officials can enter any premises of the assessee for a search operation. While surveys can only be conducted on business premises and start during regular business hours, searches can be done any time of the day.
The IT officials can also look into books of accounts, bank accounts, cash, stock and non-valuable documents, among other things, during surveys.
Issuing a statement, Newslaundry co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri said, “A team from the Income Tax department came to the registered office of Newslaundry at approximately 12:15 in the afternoon on the 10th of September and conducted a “survey” under section 133 A as per the document shown to me. They left the premises at around 12:40 am on the 11th of September. I was told I cannot speak to my lawyer and have to hand over my phone.”
NewsClick also issued a statement, saying, “The IT team recorded the statement of Newsclick’s Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha; impounded his phone; and took away documents – what they called ‘loose papers’ from the premises. They also took email dumps of Prabir, editor Pranjal, and various administrative and financial accounts related to Newsclick. Around 30 employees and support staff of Newsclick were in the office throughout the ‘survey’.”
(With inputs from DNA India)
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