Jaishankar replies to UK counterpart's BBC I-T 'survey' query 'firmly'
The Minister of External Affairs (MEA) S Jaishankar "firmly" responded to his United Kingdom counterpart, James Cleverly, on Wednesday when he brought up the "survey" at British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offices in Mumbai and Delhi by the Income Tax Department. Jaishankar replied that all of its entities operating in India must follow Indian law during a bilateral meeting ahead of G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting.
Why does this story matter?
- The I-T Department conducted a "survey" of BBC offices weeks after the Central government banned the controversial BBC documentary India: The Modi Question, labeling it colonial propaganda. It alleged that the survey is part of the tax evasion investigation.
- Later, the British government defended the BBC, saying that the broadcaster's editorial freedom is crucial and that the "raids" were discussed with the Indian government.
S Jaishankar's 'firm' reply to UK counterpart
According to NDTV, in his reply to Cleverly, Jaishankar "firmly told" him that all entities operating in India must comply with Indian law. "All entities operating in India must comply fully with relevant laws and regulations," Cleverly was reportedly told. Earlier, the Union Finance Ministry had also flagged "income/profits shown by various BBC entities," saying they were not commensurate with its scale of operations.
UK Foreign Minister raised tax 'raid' on BBC with Jaishankar
Speaking to Reuters in an interview, Cleverly said he raised the issue of the BBC tax survey with India's Minister of Foreign Affairs (MEA), S Jaishankar during a bilateral meeting held in Delhi on Wednesday as part of G20 summit. To recall, the I-T department conducted searches at the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai last month for at least three days.
UK government defends BBC; MPs too voiced concern
Last week, the United Kingdom government defended the BBC and its editorial freedom in its Parliament. The government led by Indian-origin Rishi Sunak termed the survey 'deeply worrying' but added that it would not comment on an ongoing investigation. Labor Party MPs also expressed concern about the I-T action, which Northern Ireland MP Jim Shannon described as a "deliberate act of intimidation."
I-T Department collected financial, other documents from BBC
Reportedly, the sleuths of the I-T Department gathered many documents and financial data from BBC offices. They claimed the material was linked to alleged tax evasion. They also made copies of the organization's electronic and paper-based financial data. Notably, the department claimed that it has been investigating overseas taxation, and the transfer pricing policy of BBC and its subsidiary companies.
Operation invites criticism; UK said closely 'monitoring' situation
Meanwhile, many political parties and media entities, notably the Editors' Guild of India (EGI), criticized the searches shortly after they began on February 14 at the BBC's offices. However, the BJP's spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia termed BBC as "the most corrupt institution in the world." The US government made no comment, while the UK government said it was "closely monitoring" the situation.
Controversy triggered by BBC Modi documentary
The I-T survey was conducted only a few weeks after the contentious BBC Modi documentary was released, which outraged the BJP-led Centre. The documentary questioned PM Modi's role as Gujarat's CM during the 2002 riots, which killed over 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.
PIL seeking complete ban on BBC in India rejected
Last month, the Supreme Court of India dismissed a petition seeking a total ban on BBC in the country for its documentary on Prime Minister Modi and its charges related to the 2002 Gujarat riots. An SC bench of Justices MM Sundresh and Sanjiv Khanna ruled that the PIL filed by Hindu Sena president Vishnu Gupta was completely misconceived.