GoM set up to look at ‘paid news’ issue

New Delhi: Taking cognizance of the issue of 'paid news', the government has constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) to examine the matter in detail and suggest remedial measures, which could include imposing heavy penalties on media houses found indulging in such practices, reports PTI.

The GoM, which would be headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, would suggest a comprehensive policy and institutional mechanisms to tackle paid news, sources said.

It would primarily be looking into the report on paid news prepared and submitted by the Press Council of India (PCI).

The other members of the GoM would be home minister P Chidambaram, law minister Veerappa Moily, urban development minister Jaipal Reddy, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and human resource development Minister Kabil Sibal.

Giving more powers to the PCI and linking financial penalties to a certain percentage of annual turnover of media houses are some of the measures to be explored by the GoM, the sources said.

The phenomenon first came to light in the run-up to 2009 general elections when certain media houses are alleged to have indulged in this practice.

Since then, the matter has been vigorously debated by the Editors Guild and the Press Council of India.

A sub-committee of the Press Council, comprising Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K Srinivas Reddy, had conducted the inquiry on the behalf of the PCI.

The report traced the emergence of paid news phenomenon over years and had concluded that in pursuing its quest for profits, certain media organisations had sacrificed good journalistic practices and ethical norms.


I-T dept plans new measures to curb tax evasion

New Delhi: The Income Tax (I-T) department plans to "immediately capture" on receipt the data of returns filed by taxpayers to enhance their investigation and enforcement action to curb tax evasion and reduce tax gap over the next few years, reports PTI.

The department is also mooting developing a "criminal investigation" system within its establishment to combat terror financing, money laundering, offshore tax evasion and other illegal trades which impact national security.

"Income Tax department intends to use innovative methods to supplement its traditional enforcement tools in order to reduce the tax gap during the strategic plan period 2011-15. A conscious effort will be made to move towards non-intrusive targeted enforcement tools," the 'Vision 2020' document of the department said.

The 30-page document, which charts out the course of action for the I-T department over next few years, was unveiled recently by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

To achieve this objective, the I-T department will "make internal data available almost on real time basis by capturing data from paper returns immediately after receipt," the document said.

The department also aims at making internal data (of I-T) "robust and current" by including information gathered during enforcement action by the investigation wing and the assessing officers.

The I-T department will also consider modification of Income Tax Return forms to capture relevant information to facilitate matching of external information, it added.

The department, which is currently probing a host of high-profile financial irregularities from and to overseas destinations, considers that the "next decade will see an increased role (of I-T) in scrutinising" such transactions and fund flows.

"This will require the income tax department to deploy considerable resource and energy on criminal investigation.

Effective criminal investigation will necessarily include a comprehensive international strategy to combat offshore tax evasion, and fund flows that threaten security of the country."

The document, which will undergo a mid-term review in 2013, aims at taking forward the strategic planning of the department and its policies from 2011-2015 along with the new Direct Taxes Code (DTC) which is proposed to replace the current Income Tax Act from next fiscal.

The roadmap seeks to strategise the policies of the department as new technological development, accelerated globalisation, exchange of information between revenue authorities and the new Direct Tax Code offer both challenges and opportunities.

The department also proposes to hone its cyber forensic skills, keep tab on fund flow relating to money laundering, narcotics and terror and "ensure exemplary enforcement against abusive schemes and corporate tax frauds."

The I-T department accounts for 60% of the central revenue.


Reliance Retail to open 150 stores by March

Kolkata: Reliance Retail Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries, has chalked out plans to open another 150 stores in all formats by March 2011, reports PTI quoting a top official.

"We will open 100 to 150 stores by March," Reliance Retail president and chief executive (lifestyle) Bijou Kurien told reporters on the sidelines of the Retail Summit here.

He said that so far, Reliance Retail has 1,050 stores in all formats in the country. "We will be setting up 350 stores during the whole fiscal," he said.

Mr Kurien said that to meet the Rs45,000-crore revenue target over the next five years, the number of stores would be more than doubled.

"Reliance Retail has 20 formats of stores both in food and non-food items," he said.

In the last fiscal, the company's revenue stood at Rs4,500 crore.

Relating to Marks & Spencer, he said currently there are 21 such stores across the country. This would be increased to 50 in three year's time.

He said Reliance Retail is also keen to expand its footprint in the Northeast and Bihar.


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