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NewsClick founder Prabir Purksyastha, HR head Amit Chakraborty move Delhi High Court against arrest under UAPA

The Delhi High Court has been approached by founder and editor-in-Chief of NewsClick Prabir Purkayastha and its Human Resources head Amit Chakravarty, who have challenged their arrest in a case registered against them following allegations of the portal receiving money for pro-China propaganda.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula.

Advocate Sibal, who represented the NewsClick founder, said the arrest was entirely illegal in nature.

The Bench allowed the matter to be listed today.

Purkayastha and Chakraborty have further challenged the FIR registered by Delhi Police’s Special Cell as well as the trial court order remanding them to police custody for seven days till October 10.

Earlier this week, a trial court had remanded the duo to police custody, while agreeing to hand over the copy of the remand application filed by the Delhi Police to their counsel.

The Judges asked for the copy of the FIR to understand the matter.

The allegations against NewsClick came to fore after publication of a report by New York Times on August 5, which alleged that the online media outlet had received funds from China to create an ‘anti-India’ atmosphere.

Soon there was a series of raids by the Delhi police on the residences of journalists and writers, both past and present, associated with NewsClick.

The news portal issued a statement yesterday, claiming that it was not provided with a copy of the FIR, or informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which it was charged.

The statement read that the Electronic devices were seized from the Newsclick premises and homes of employees, without any adherence to due process such as the provision of seizure memos, hash values of the seized data, or even copies of the data.

The statement said that the Newsclick’s office has also been sealed in a blatant attempt at preventing them from continuing their reporting.

It said NewsClick strongly condemned the actions of a Government that refused to respect independent journalism, and treated criticism as sedition or anti-national propaganda.

The media organisation clearly stated how it has been targeted by a series of actions by various agencies of the Government of India since 2021.

Its offices and residences of employees have been raided by the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police and the Income Tax Department.

It added that all the devices, laptops, gadgets and phones have been seized in the past. All emails and communications have been analysed under the microscope.

All bank statements, invoices, expenses incurred and sources of funds received by NewsClick in the last several years have been scrutinised by different agencies of the Government from time to time, it added.

Prior to the NYT report, NewsClick was facing another investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) based on allegations of money laundering. This had initiated multiple raids by ED into the premises of the editors and the case is still pending.

NewsClick and Purkayastha had earlier approached the Delhi High Court seeking a copy of the ECIR registered by ED in September 2020 in the money laundering case, which had passed interim orders on June 21, 2021 and July 20, directing the ED not to take any coercive action against the website and its editor in chief.

Subsequently, ED had sought vacation of two orders passed by a co-ordinate bench on June 21, 2021 and July 20, 2021. The Delhi High Court recently issued notice on an application moved by the Enforcement Directorate.

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