Judicial interventions in ongoing cases against NewsClick: A timeline of events 

We take a look at the chronology of events pertaining to interventions by High Courts in the ongoing cases against NewsClick

October 03, 2023 09:09 pm | Updated October 04, 2023 11:43 am IST

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of NewsClick Prabir Purkayastha is brought to Delhi Police Special Cell in New Delhi, India, on October 3, 2023

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of NewsClick Prabir Purkayastha is brought to Delhi Police Special Cell in New Delhi, India, on October 3, 2023 | Photo Credit: AP

The Delhi Police’s Special Cell on Tuesday arrested NewsClick founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and the news portal’s human resources head Amit Chakravarty in connection with its investigation into a case filed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA).

Earlier in the day, multiple raids were carried out at the residences of various journalists and people associated with the news outlet. The raids were reportedly carried out based on inputs from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) relating to foreign funds.

A case has been registered by the Delhi Police under various provisions of the UAPA, and Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. The fresh case by the Special Cell was registered on August 17.

However, this is not the first instance of such raids being conducted. The ED searched premises linked to NewsClick in February 2021, in connection with a money laundering probe into the alleged receipt of about ₹38 crore from a U.S.-based entity having links to China. Again, in September 2021, the Income-Tax Department conducted surveys in the official premises of NewsClick and Newslaundry in South Delhi, to examine their financial records.

The Delhi High Court has intervened several times to protect the news website and its founder from coercive action in cases registered by the ED and Delhi Police’s Economic Offence Wing involving money laundering and illegal foreign funding charges respectively. In August this year, petitions were moved before the High Court by the investigating agencies seeking vacation of these orders granting interim protection.

The matters are listed for hearing from October 9 to October 11 at 3pm.

Timeline of events

June 21, 2021: Delhi HC grants NewsClick founder protection from coercive action till July 5 in money laundering case

The Delhi High Court directed the ED to not take any coercive action against NewsClick Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha and PPK Newsclick Studio Private Limited, which owns the news portal, until July 5, in connection with a case pertaining to sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). While issuing notice to the ED in a plea seeking a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered against NewsClick, Justice Jasmeet Singh also asked Delhi Police to respond to another petition filed by the news portal’s owners to quash the case registered against it by the Economic Offence Wing in 2020. The ED was granted two weeks’ time to file its reply.

The ED had registered the case based on an FIR registered by Delhi Police’s Economic Offence Wing in 2020. Allegations in the FIR included overvaluing of shares, diverting funds, and violation of FDI regulations.

June 28, 2021: Justice Subramonium Prasad of Delhi HC recuses from hearing plea to quash FIR in money laundering case

Justice Subramonium Prasad of the Delhi High Court recused from hearing the petition filed by NewsClick and Mr. Purkayastha seeking to quash the FIR registered against him by the ED in connection with a money laundering case. The matter was ordered to be listed before another bench on June 30, 2021.

July 5, 2021: Delhi HC extends interim protection of NewsClick founder till July 29 in money laundering case

The Delhi High Court extended the interim protection granted in the money laundering case on June 21 to PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt. Ltd. and Mr. Purkayastha till July 29. Justice Mukta Gupta also issued notice and sought the ED’s response on a plea by Mr. Purkayastha seeking anticipatory bail in the PMLA case. The Court also noted that a copy of the ECIR registered by the ED in the case has not been provided to the petitioners yet.

July 7, 2021: Delhi HC grants interim protection to NewsClick founder till August 5 in foreign funding case

The Delhi High Court granted interim protection from coercive action and arrest to Mr. Purkayastha till August 5 in connection with a Delhi police FIR concerning unlawful foreign funding and overvaluing of shares. Justice Yogesh Khanna was hearing a plea filed by Mr. Purkayastha seeking anticipatory bail in the case.

The allegation against Mr. Purkayastha was that he had received Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the tune of Rs. 9.59 crore from Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, USA, during the financial year 2018-19. The FIR claimed that the investment was made by greatly overvaluing the shares of the petitioner company to allegedly avoid the cap of 26% of FDI in a digital news website. It further alleged that some of the investment was siphoned off for various other motives.

July 29, 2021: Delhi HC extends interim protection of NewsClick founder till September 2 in money laundering case

The Delhi High Court extended the interim protection granted to Mr. Purkayastha in connection with the money laundering case rsubject to his joining the investigation; it was extended till the next date of hearing on September 2. Once again, the Court recorded in its order that the ED was yet to supply a copy of its ECIR to the parties concerned.

August 5, 2021: Delhi HC questions why custodial interrogation of NewsClick founder is needed; extends interim protection in foreign funding case till December 17

The Delhi High Court extended till December 17 the interim protection from arrest granted to Mr. Purkayastha in the unlawful foreign funding case registered by the Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing. A status report filed by the Delhi Police was also taken on record; this report stipulated that the RBI had filed a reply stating that there has been no delay in the issue of shares as well as reporting, as per the FEMA regulations.

Accordingly, Justice Yogesh Khanna asked the Delhi Police why custodial interrogation of Mr. Purkayastha was required when there was a prima facie favourable view given by the RBI. The concerned Investigating Officer and the Additional Public Prosecutor appearing for the State however apprised the court that the investigation was still underway and that they were seeking replies from various institutions from where remittances were sent.

April 1, 2022: Gujarat HC refuses to interfere with interim injunction against NewsClick in ₹100 Crore defamation suit by Adani Group

The Gujarat High Court refused to interfere with an interim injunction granted in favour of Adani Power against NewsClick restraining the latter from publishing defamatory content against the company. The dispute involved the publication of two articles pertaining to the adjudication of Adani’s disputes before the Supreme Court. The articles were titled “Justice Arun Mishra’s Final ‘Gift’ of Rs.8,000 crore to Adani” and “Have Justice Arun Mishra’s Judgments helped Adani Group?”. Consequently, a ₹100 crore defamation suit was filed by Adani seeking an injunction restricting the publication and circulation of the articles in question. The City Civil Court at Ahmedabad had granted an interim injunction in favour of Adani Power vide an order dated March 6, 2021.

August 11, 2023: Delhi HC seeks NewClick founder’s response in ED plea to vacate interim protection order in money laundering case

The Delhi High Court sought news portal NewsClick and Mr. Purkayastha’s stand in a plea filed by the ED seeking vacation of earlier orders protecting them from coercive action in the money laundering case. Justice Saurabh Banerjee directed Mr. Purkayastha and NewsClick to file their replies in two weeks. The Court was of the opinion that the application had merit and required consideration.

The ED filed this application just days after a New York Times (NYT) report alleged that NewsClick was among organisations funded by a network tied to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for pushing Chinese propaganda. Although the ED’s application did not mention the NYT report, it said that it has “unearthed additional material” which revealed the “commission of the offence of money laundering as well as scheduled offences by the petitioner”.

August 22, 2023: Delhi HC seeks NewsClick founder’s stand in Delhi police’s plea against interim protection order in foreign funding case

The Delhi High Court sought Mr. Purkayastha’s stand in the plea by Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing seeking vacation of the 2021 order granting him interim protection from arrest in a case of alleged unlawful foreign funding. In its plea, the Delhi police said that further investigation in the matter is underway and in a “serious matter like the present case, protection of pre-arrest bail is not warranted.”

The court will hear both the ED and well as the Delhi Police’s plea seeking vacation of the interim protection orders from October 9 to October 11 at 3pm.

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