I-T dept bound to maintain confidentiality of material seized from Newslaundry: Delhi HC

Senior counsel, representing the petitioners, stated that the apprehension of a leak would not have arisen had the department given them an opportunity to delete personal data before taking it away. File.   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Income Tax Department to honour its assurance given to the court to maintain confidentiality of the documents seized during a survey operation at news portal Newslaundry’s premises in the Capital earlier this month.

A High Court Bench gave the direction after ED’s counsel said the material seized by the agency will be used only in accordance with the law, which may include sharing it with other government agencies, and will not be leaked to third parties.

“The respondent assures and undertakes before the court that the seized material shall not be leaked and the concept of confidentially as enshrined in the Income Tax Act shall be abided. The said undertaking given by the respondent is accepted by the court and respondent is held bound by it,” the court recorded.

The court was hearing a petition by the Newslaundry and its CEO Abhinandan Sekhri to not leak any material seized during the survey at its office in south Delhi. The agency’s counsel said: “Seized material is in safe custody of the Income Tax Department. Seized material shall not be leaked. It will be illegal to leak such material.”

In view of the IT department’s assurance, Mr. Sekhri said he would not press the prayer with respect to a challenge to the survey operation at this stage.

Private data

Newslaundry, in its plea, stated the IT officials impounded a hard disk and cloned copies of office desktops, laptop and phone of Mr. Sekhri, his personal email accounts, and bunch of loose papers. The petition contended that the seized materials contain private data including chats and communications of Mr. Sekhri. It said the private data could be “misused or leaked or illegally released in the public domain”, which is a breach of privacy of Mr. Sekhri.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 5:33:27 AM |

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