The BBC said on Tuesday that it is "fully cooperating" with the Income Tax authorities who are at its offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and hoped that the situation will be resolved "as soon as possible".
The British Broadcasting Corporation, the UK-headquartered public broadcaster, did not give further details of what has been described as “surveys” by the I-T department, which reportedly involved local BBC staff being prevented from entering the office premises and their mobile phones being shut down.
"The Income Tax Authorities are currently at the BBC offices in New Delhi and Mumbai and we are fully cooperating,” a BBC spokesperson said in a statement.
“We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible," the spokesperson said.
The Income Tax action comes weeks after the broadcaster aired its controversial India: The Modi Question documentary, which focused on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's time as the chief minister of Gujarat when riots took place in 2022.
The Indian government branded the two-part series a “propaganda piece”, designed to push a particular “discredited narrative”.
“The bias, lack of objectivity and continuing colonial mindset is blatantly visible,” the ministry of external affairs said at the time it was aired in the UK last month.
The documentary also triggered coordinated Indian diaspora protests at BBC offices across different UK cities at the end of last month.
The UK government responded in the House of Commons to the protests by insisting the BBC as a media organisation was “independent in its outlet” and reiterating its commitment to enhancing ties with India.
“We recognise how this portrayal of the Indian government has played out in India. I made it clear that the BBC is independent in its output, that the UK regards India as an incredibly important international partner and that we will be investing heavily in that relationship in the coming decades,” UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said earlier this month.
His remarks were later echoed by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's official spokesperson in Downing Street: “The BBC is independent in its output and we would stress that we continue to regard India as an incredibly important international partner.
“We will be investing heavily in our relationship with India over the coming decades and we're confident it will only go from strength to strength”.
The BBC, founded in October 1922, is the world's oldest public broadcaster. While independent of the British government, it operates under a royal charter agreement with the UK secretary of state for the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS).
Its work is funded principally by an annual television licence fee, which is charged to all British households, companies, and organisations accessing the service.
The annual fee is set by the British government and agreed by parliament and is used to fund the BBC's radio, television, and online services covering the regions of the United Kingdom as well as its BBC World Service networks.
The licence fee currently stands at 159 pounds a year and there have been ongoing discussions within government on finding alternative ways of funding for the future.