IT raids premises linked to Dainik Bhaskar, UP channel
- The income tax department or its policymaking body, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), didn’t officially comment.
The income tax (IT) department on Thursday conducted raids at the premises of the Dainik Bhaskar Group across the country in a suspected tax evasion case, officials familiar with the matter said.
The search operations spanned 32 locations in multiple cities consisting of residential and business premises of various office bearers of the Dainik Bhaskar group in Mumbai, Delhi, Bhopal, Indore, Jaipur, Korba, Noida and Ahmedabad. Subsequently, the IT teams also raided a regional news channel, Bharat Samachar, based in Lucknow and premises of its state head Virendra Singh and editor-in-chief Brajesh Mishra.
The income tax department or its policymaking body, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), didn’t officially comment.
But an officer with direct knowledge of developments said, “A search under section 132 of income tax act is being carried out in Dainik Bhaskar group offices as there are allegations of huge tax evasion by the group by claiming bogus expenses and purchases using shell entities. The group has floated several paper companies for this purpose, with their employees as shareholders and directors.”
“The money siphoned off in this manner is routed back into various personal and business investments, in the form of share premium and foreign investments through Mauritius-based entities. The family members’ names also figured in Panama leaks case,” the officer added.
“The DB group is involved in various sectors, including media, power, textiles and real estate, with a group turnover of more than ₹6,000 crores per annum. The group has more than 100 companies including the holding and subsidiary companies,” said a second IT officer.
Opposition parties alleged that the raids were an attack on journalism and was being done to scare the journalists. They added that raids on Dainik Bhaskar were carried out for its reportage on Covid-19 mismanagement by the Narendra Modi government during the second wave in April and May.
“Through its reporting Dainik Bhaskar has exposed the Modi regime’s monumental mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now paying the price...,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted.
Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh too chimed in, terming it an attack on journalism. Singh alleged that PM Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah were using the investigative agencies as weapons against the media.
He also raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha.
BJP leader and Union minister Anurag Thakur rejected the allegations. “Agencies are doing their own work and there is no interference...One should take complete information and, in its absence, sometimes many issues come up that are far from the truth...,” he told reporters at a cabinet briefing.
Apart from Ramesh and Singh, other opposition leaders too criticised the tax raids on media houses. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet in Hindi: “Income tax raids conducted on Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar are an attempt to scare the media. Their message is clear-- those who speak against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will not be spared,” Kejriwal said in his tweet posted in Hindi.”
Founded by Ramesh Chandra Aggarwal in 1958 in Bhopal, Dainik Bhaskar has a strong presence in the Hindi heartland, with 65 editions in 12 states. It is published in three languages, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati.
During the peak of the second wave, the newspaper published a series of articles to show the actual scale of devastation on account of the pandemic and on the undercounting of deaths in many states including UP, Rajasthan and Gujarat. There was no official statement from Bhaskar group but it ran a lead story on its website saying “the government is scared of true journalism”. “Government exerts pressure on Bhaskar Group, which showed actual figures of Covid-19 deaths and bodies floating in the Ganga river,” the story said.