Updated: September 21, 2021 4:52:34 pm
The Income Tax department on Tuesday assured the Delhi High Court that the material seized from Newslaundry’s office during the recent ‘survey’ is in its safe custody and it will not be leaked.
The court was also told that the material will be used only for the purposes of investigation in accordance with the law and the concept of confidentiality as enshrined in the Income Tax Act shall be abided. The division bench of Justice Manmohan and Justice Navin Chawla recorded the statement and said that the department will remain bound by its undertaking.
“You are the mighty department. You are not some ordinary person. You are a very powerful organisation. Surely you can protect,” said the court, while disposing of Newslaundry’s petition.
Newslaundry Media Private Limited and its co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri had approached the court last week for a direction against leaking of any material, including private chats or communication, to any third media including the media. The court had asked the counsel representing the IT department to come back with instructions.
On September 17, the court observed that it was legally as well as morally wrong to leak private data and asked the IT department to take precautions. “It (leakage of data) is contrary to their (probe agencies) interest, the public interest, the person who has been searched . It’s totally wrong – ethically, morally, legally, every way ,” the bench had said.
The data from Sekhri’s laptop and phone was downloaded by IT officials during a ‘survey’ at the news portal’s office. Sekhri’s counsel last week told the court that the first and second notice under Section 131(1A) of Income Tax Act were received by Newslaundry in June and the third notice was issued in September. During the survey, under Section 133A (3) (1a) of the Act, between September 10 and 11, the court was told, six items including the data from Sekhri’s phone and laptop were impounded.
“This breaches my right to privacy. The data may contain certain investigative stories that I may be doing; may be against the government, may be against other persons. It also contains a lot of my personal information,” Senior Advocate Siddhartha Dave, representing Sekhri, argued on September 17.
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