The government said on Monday that news broadcaster New Delhi Television Ltd, which operates news channels like NDTV India and NDTV 24x7, is trying to mislead both the media and the general public, and indulging in a blame game.
The government said that the income tax department’s penalty of Rs436.8 crore at the rate of 200% of tax evaded by NDTV is not false.
“The latest communication dated 22.07.2017 posted by NDTV on their website is another attempt at engaging in a media trial when the matter has already been adjudicated by the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT). The present communication although blames income tax department yet one fails to understand how the confirmation of the addition made by the income tax by the ITAT goes to prove that the basis for making such addition lies with the income tax department," said a government official who declined to be named.
The government further added that NDTV is not conscious of what it is saying. “To put it in simple words, NDTV wants to put blame on just anyone except itself because self-introspection and confession requires moral courage which NDTV is not left with now. The Income Tax Department is a soft target because unlike a court, there is no fear of contempt and there is no fear of rebuttal because the department cannot respond in media and can only prove its stand in a court of law," the person cited above further added.
The government’s rebuttal comes in response to NDTV’s statement titled ‘Income Tax department lies about NDTV : Silencing the press’ published by the broadcaster on its website on 22 July.
It said, “Now, the politicians have asked the Income Tax authorities to step up their baseless attack on NDTV, again, with complete disregard for the facts of the matter....In short, the Income Tax authorities have held that a bona fide investment in NDTV by the American media giant NBC and GE (General Electric, one of the most reputable corporations in the world) was a “sham transaction."
Last week, the ITAT had upheld a tax demand raised on a $150 million investment by a US television network in NDTV in 2008, an order which the company said has “numerous inconsistencies and contradictions".
The income tax department confirmed invocation of Section 69A of Income Tax Act (dealing with ‘unexplained money’ addition) and upheld that “transaction used principally as a devise for the distribution/diversion of sum to the Indian entity" and that “the beneficial owner of the money is the assessee".
The government on Monday also said that NDTV’s allegations of political instructions to CBI and income tax department are “not only humorous" but also “false on bare facts".
“Let NDTV contort the facts. When the addition of Rs642.54 crore was proposed for the first time during the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) regime on 30 March 2013, no allegations of political instructions was made by NDTV," said the official cited above.