Is Google Inc. earning Rs.4,29,000 Crore from its Indian operations without paying Tax?
The Delhi High Court on Monday directed Google to file an additional affidavit on its claim of no revenue from its agreement with the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting after a claim was made that it was generating Rs.4,29,000 crore from Indian operations.
A Division Bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva was hearing a PIL petition by the former BJP ideologue, K.N. Govindacharya, raising questions about the usage of the social media by the government. Virag Gupta, counsel for Mr. Govindacharya, said Google had paid tax only on income amounting to Rs.81 crore, while the rest was being sent out of India without tax.
After Google said in an affidavit that it had not earned any revenue from the agreement with the government, Mr. Gupta said the affidavit was silent on the income generated by Google Ireland, and if any revenue was shared with the Centre. Google said it had no contractual relationship with the Centre on the content uploaded by the I&B Ministry on any of its sites.
The company also told the bench it has no contractual relationship with the Centre regarding content uploaded by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on YouTube or any other of its sites.
The submissions were made on affidavit in response to the court’s query to it and Google Inc, on an earlier date, as to whether YouTube was generating revenue from contents uploaded by the government.
Google Inc, the parent company of Google Ireland which operates YouTube, in its affidavit stated that “no advertisements appear on the content owned by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India and provided/uploaded on the YouTube platform by the ministry”.
The Centre, meanwhile, told the court that it has no “customised agreements” with Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp. There are no customised agreements with YouTube (Google) either, except the one (with Google Ireland/YouTube) mentioned above”.
This submission was made by the government in response to the court’s earlier query as to whether the ministry has any agreement with these social media entities.
The affidavits were filed in a PIL by former BJP leader K N Govindacharya raising questions on social media usage by the government.
Appearing for Govindacharya, advocate Virag Gupta told the court that Google Inc was “misleading and silent on the crucial issue of income generated by Google Ireland and if any revenue is shared with the Union of India”.
The bench, thereafter, sought an additional affidavit from Google Inc on whether it is making any money out of the content uploaded by ministry and listed the matter for further hearing on April 27.
On January 27, the government had filed the content licence agreement entered into with Google Ireland in 2013 regarding content put up on YouTube.
The government had earlier in an affidavit told the court that its media wing and IT departments were using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter by entering into standard agreements and not any formal or separate deals.
Gupta had told the court that as per contracts the government has with these companies, it was “transferring/ surrendering” all intellectual property rights of the data being uploaded.