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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Income-tax department took data by ‘cloning’ Oxfam India server

I-T, which also conducted 'searches' on the Delhi premises of the Centre for Policy Research, a think tank, has not yet revealed the reason for raids

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 12.09.22, 01:24 AM
The income tax (IT) department officials conducted an income tax ‘survey’ at the Oxfam India Delhi office from the 7th September 2022 noon to early hours of 9th September: Excerpts.

The income tax (IT) department officials conducted an income tax ‘survey’ at the Oxfam India Delhi office from the 7th September 2022 noon to early hours of 9th September: Excerpts. File photo

Oxfam India operatives were not allowed to leave the premises, the Internet was shut down and all mobile phones confiscated during the income tax department’s “survey” of the international charity’s Delhi premises from Wednesday noon to the early hours of Friday, the organisation has said in a statement.

The Bangalore-headquartered Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation, also “surveyed” by the department since Wednesday, too issued a statement saying its affairs were in order.

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The department, which also conducted “searches” on the Delhi premises of the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), a think tank, has not yet revealed the reason for the raids.

Government sources have said unofficially that the searches were part of raids at several places — including some in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana — over the funding of more than 20 registered but non-recognised political parties. But they have not explained what the three organisations have to do with these political parties.

The IPSMF’s website says it “provides financial support and seeks to mentor digital-media entities in creating and disseminating public-interest information borne out of serious and independent journalism”.

Excerpts from the IPSMF statement: “A team of income tax officials came for a ‘survey’ to the Bengaluru office of the Foundation on Wednesday, September 7. They stayed till 4.30 this (Friday) morning, going through the papers and records of the Foundation and asking questions.

“The Foundation’s staff were cooperative and answered all questions put to them on a wide range of matters. The officials took statements from three senior staff members. All laptops and mobile phones were taken for cloning data in them and returned last night.

“All staff other than the CEO, Sunil Rajshekhar, were allowed to go home at various stages in the evening/ night of September 7, and asked to return the following morning for further questioning. The CEO slept in the office for a few hours on the intervening night of September 7-8. The IT officials were courteous during their survey work.

“The Foundation believes that its affairs are entirely in order. Some media reporting on the IT survey has linked it to foreign funding and the funding of political parties. We wish to make it clear that the Foundation has received no foreign funds at any stage, and has funded only media entities. The Foundation believes in its mission of supporting independent and public-spirited media, and intends to continue its work.”

Excerpts from the Oxfam India statement: “The income tax (IT) department officials conducted an income tax ‘survey’ at the Oxfam India Delhi office from the 7th September 2022 noon to early hours of 9th September. During these 35 plus hours of non-stop survey, the Oxfam India team members were not allowed to leave the premises; the Internet was shut down and all the mobile phones were confiscated.

“The income tax survey team took away hundreds of pages of data pertaining to finances and programmes of Oxfam India. They also took all the data by cloning the Oxfam India server and the private mobile phones of the senior leadership team and the finance lead.

“While the team conducting the survey was polite and professional; the process of a survey with such sweeping powers and broad ambit resulted in disappointing Oxfam India, an organisation that has been law-abiding and community centric.

“Oxfam India is compliant with Indian laws and has filed all its statutory compliances, including income tax and Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) returns, in a timely manner since its inception…. This income tax survey was undertaken without giving a reason….”

“Oxfam India has cooperated with the income tax department during this survey and is committed to doing so in the future. In January 2022 we also had a detailed weeklong audit of the FCRA accounts by the auditors appointed by the FCRA division.

“The past eight months have been distressing for Oxfam India. In December 2021, the renewal of FCRA licence was denied by the ministry of home affairs. Despite this, Oxfam India was conducting one of the largest civil society responses to the Covid crisis across 16 states in India.

“The IT survey and MHA’s refusal to renew Oxfam India’s FCRA registration will not reduce our commitment to serve the vulnerable communities in the country and uphold values enshrined in the Indian Constitution.”

The CPR had not issued any statement on the matter till Friday evening.

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