I-T officials also reportedly questioned Kashyap and Pannu in Pune where they were shooting for a film. Income tax commissioner and official spokesperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxes Surabhi Ahluwalia confirmed the searches without disclosing any names.
As news of the searches spread, political leaders alleged the duo was targeted by the I-T department for criticising the Modi government’s policies. However, I&B minister Prakash Javadekar rejected allegations that the searches were linked to their critical comments on BJP. “This is too much,” he said and added that “probe agencies undertake investigations based on credible information and the matter later goes to courts as well.”
NCP minister Nawab Malik told the media that the Centre was suppressing their voices through such action, while Tejashwi Yadav, leader of opposition in Bihar, tagged Kashyap and Pannu in his tweet: “They first employed I-T, CBI, ED to conduct raids on vocal & upright political rivals for their character assassination. Now Nazi govt is chasing social activists, journalists & artists to threaten them against calling spade a spade. Condemnable Act!..”
Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, Actor Taapsee Pannu Face Income Tax Raids. BJP’S A team at work to harass, intimidate & silence those who don’t fall in line. India has never seen such malafide use of I-T dept, ED, NIA, police etc.”
But I-T officials claimed that they had found discrepancies in the income earned by these firms/individuals and their returns filed with the department that indicates tax evasion, and one should not connect the searches with any other reason. They collected digital records and files during the searches. The department is examining the last few years’ financial records of these firms and individuals, said a senior I-T officer.
Phantom Films was dissolved two years ago after one of its promoters faced sexual harassment charges from a former employee. A Reliance spokesperson said Reliance Entertainment premises were searched because of its past association with Phantom Films and they were not facing any scrutiny. I-T officials searched the premises of people connected with the company including Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena.