I-T searches at Dainik Bhaskar Group on evasion charges

Our Bureau. Ahmedabad | Updated on July 22, 2021

Opposition alleges motivated ‘use of Central agencies to muzzle media’

The Income Tax Department on Thursday conducted searches at the Dainik Bhaskar Group for suspected dubious financial transactions and tax evasion.

A search under Section 132 of the Income Tax Act is being carried out in the Dainik Bhaskar Group, a source said, confirming the searches.

A total of 32 premises, business and residential, in Mumbai, Delhi, Bhopal, Indore, Jaipur, Korba, Noida and Ahmedabad were searched.

While no official statement had come from the Central Board of Direct Taxes till the time of going to press, an official source said: “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 are routed back into various personal and business investments in the form of share premium and foreign investments through Mauritius-based entities,” the source said, adding that the family members’ names had also figured in the 2016 Panama leaks case.

“The searches have been resorted to after analysing departmental database, banking enquiries and other enquiries,” the official said. The key persons of the Group under I-T radar include Sudhir Agarwal, Pawan Agarwal and Girish Agarwal all belonging to the promoter family.

The Dainik Bhaskar Group has presence in media, power, textiles and real-estate with over a hundred companies. The Group has a turnover of more than ₹6,000 crore per annum. Flagship DB Corp Ltd publishes the daily Dainik Bhaskar. DB Corp shares lost nearly 3.25 per cent to settle at ₹105.60 on the BSE after the I-T searches.


Oppn flays govt

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, “Writing truth in a paper is enough to scare a weak government.” TMC supremo and Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, called it a “brutal attempt to stifle democracy.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the Modi Government’s ‘raid raj’ won’t work.

The searches found echo in Parliament, too. The Opposition attacked the government and disrupted proceedings in both Houses.

I-T sleuths also searched business premises of Lucknow-based news channel Bharat Samachar News as well as the residences of its Editor-in-chief, Brajesh Mishra.


Govt clarifies

The crackdown on the two media houses triggered widespread criticism. The Opposition lashed out at the Centre, accusing it of targeting free media. The government, however, distanced itself from the searches. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said, “Agencies do their own work, we don’t interfere in their functioning.”

The Dainik Bhaskar Group, in a statement on its website, said the media house, through its news reports, had highlighted the ground realities of what major States had faced during the Covid-19 second wave. “Bhaskar has done impartial journalism and placed truth before the people,” it said.

Accompanied by strong police contingents assistance, the tax sleuths rushed to about 30 locations including offices and residences of the promoters of Dainik Bhaskar Group in Bhopal and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Jaipur in Rajasthan, Ahmedabad in Gujarat and also in Maharashtra. Since, the wee hours on Thursday, the raids lasted through the day. The Bhaskar Group stated that the officials had seized the mobile phones of all the staff members present at the spot and were allowed to release online news relating to the raids only after getting it cleared from the I-T officials.

Dainik Bhaskar Group has over 60 editions in different languages, online portals and mobile news apps in Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and English. The group’s listed entity DB Corp Limited shares lost nearly 3.25 per cent to settle at ₹105.60 on the BSE after the news.


House proceedings disrupted

The uproar also reached Parliament with Opposition mounting their attack on the government disrupting the House proceedings at Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, “writing truth in a paper is enough to scare a weak government.” Congress Party’s spokesman and MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said “the Central agencies, instead of protecting the nation, have now begun to act as poachers for intimidating the whistleblowers.”

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot termed the raids on the media houses as a “brazen attempt to suppress the voice of media.” In a Twitter post, he said, “by indulging in such actions and gagging media, the Modi government wants to convey the message that if the media doesn’t become Godi-media then it’s voice will be suppressed.”

TMC supremo and Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee called it a “brutal attempt to stifle democracy.” She said, “I strongly condemn this vindictive act that aims to suppress voices that bring out the Truth. It’s a grave violation that undermines the very principles of democracy.”

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said Narendra Modi Government’s ‘raid raj’ won’t work. “Trying to scare and muzzle the truth from surfacing. But like the dead bodies floating in the Ganga, Modi government cannot hide. The misuse of central agencies for intimidation is condemnable,” he said.



Published on July 22, 2021

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