By Express News Service
BHOPAL/LUCKNOW: Tax sleuths knocked on the doors of Bhopal-headquartered Dainik Bhaskar group and Uttar Pradesh-based Bharat Samachar in the wee hours on Thursday, raiding their premises across various states for alleged tax evasion.
Multiple teams of the I-T department from Delhi and Mumbai conducted the searches under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act at business premises owned by the two media groups in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and UP, following specific inputs about tax evasion by these firms.
The Bhaskar group, which runs around 65 daily newspaper editions in Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati, had run a series of stories on the alleged cover-up of casualties in MP, Gujarat and UP as well as the vaccine wastage in Rajasthan. After the authorities denied reports of mass graves on the banks of Ganga, it sent an army of reporters to document the same.
The raids drew sharp criticism from Opposition leaders as both the media groups had done numerous stories and programmes highlighting the failure of authorities in managing the pandemic. “The attack on journalists and media houses is yet another BRUTAL attempt to stifle democracy,” tweeted West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.
“Their message is clear that whoever will speak against the BJP government… will not be spared,” said Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal, adding that the searches are an “attempt to scare the media”. However, government sources said the group evaded huge amounts of tax by claiming bogus expenses and purchases using shell entities.
‘Retaliation’The Bhaskar group claimed the raids were a retaliation to their stories exposing the mishandling of Covid-19 by the Centre and various state governments
Employees stoppedThe group said journalists at Indore and Bhopal offices were not allowed to work for some time and that their phones were seized. They were let go only around 1.00 pm, the group said