Amid Income Tax Department’s ‘survey campaign’ against BBC India, the US has said it supports the importance of universal rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and religious freedom. It is the ‘basis of democracy’ around the world including India. US State Department spokesperson Ned Price made the statement a day after the Income Tax Department launched a ‘survey operation’ at the BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai and two other related locations as part of its probe into alleged tax evasion.
The campaign continued for the second day on Wednesday as well. “We are aware of searches by Indian tax authorities at BBC offices in Delhi,” Price told reporters here. You should go to the Indian authorities to get information in this regard. “We support the importance of a free press around the world,” Price said. We stress the importance of freedom of expression and freedom of religion and belief as human rights that contribute to the strengthening of democracies around the world. It has strengthened democracy here in this country. It has strengthened India’s democracy.
‘Universal rights the basis of the world’s democracy’
Price said that these universal rights are the basis of democracies around the world. Asked whether the move was against the spirit or values of democracy, Price said, “I can’t say that.” We are aware of the facts of this search (survey operation), but I am not in a position to pass any judgement. The Income Tax Department’s surprise action came weeks after the BBC aired a two-part documentary ‘India: The Modi Question’. Tax officials said the survey was carried out to investigate issues related to international taxation and ‘transfer pricing’ of BBC subsidiaries.
He alleged that notices were given to BBC in the past but it did not pay heed and comply and diverted a significant portion of its profits. Under the ‘survey drive’, the Income Tax Department conducts searches only at the business premises of the company and does not raid the residences and other places of its promoters or directors.