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NewsClick case: Why do you need custodial interrogation, HC asks Delhi Police

It questioned the investigating agency’s opposition to pre-arrest bail for the news portal’s editors in light of a finding given by Reserve Bank of India in their favour.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: August 6, 2021 7:12:49 am
ED officials search through files during a raid at the office of Newsclick. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal/File)

The Delhi High Court Thursday continued till December 17 its order granting interim protection from arrest to NewsClick Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha and Editor Pranjal in the foreign funding case registered by Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing.

It questioned the investigating agency’s opposition to pre-arrest bail for the news portal’s editors in light of a finding given by Reserve Bank of India in their favour.

The August 2020 FIR against NewsClick under IPC Sections 406, 420 and 120B alleges that the company received FDI to the tune of Rs 9.59 crore from Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, US, during 2018- 19. This, it says, “was made by greatly overvaluing the shares of the company to avoid the alleged cap of 26% of FDI in a digital news website”.

Hearing the petitions seeking anticipatory bail, the EOW Thursday told the court that letter interrogatories were being issued to the firms concerned abroad. “Investigation is the prerogative of the investigating officer. He would like to carry on the investigation the way he likes. We have fairly stated that they have joined the investigation. Whatever the answer comes from further people who are being investigated, so they will be required to join the investigation,” it submitted.

Justice Yogesh Khanna in the order directed the EOW to complete the exercise before December 17. Asking the investigating agency why it needed the custodial interrogation, the court observed: “Institutions ka reply ka aap kya karenge? (What will you do with institutions’ reply?) Even if there may be 100 institutions, the question is… you know the RBI response that there is no delay…”.

The court in the order recorded a statement made by the EOW in its status report that a “reply from RBI has been received where in it is mentioned that as per the Form FCGPR submitted, the foreign inward remittance, was under automatic route and there was no delay in issue of shares as well as reporting, as per the extant FEMA regulations in case of M/s PPK New Click Studio Pvt. Limited”.

Inspector J S Mishra from the EOW told the court that the RBI response pertains only to the FDI transaction and that they were verifying other transactions. The court asked: “If you want to do some other inquiry than the RBI, is it necessary under the law…”.

Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan, representing the petitioners, told the court that it was easy to say “I want to do this and I want to do that”. “He may do whatever investigation. It is completely in his statutory right but all I am saying is kindly confirm the anticipatory bail,” he submitted.

The court in an order on July 7 had directed the EOW to not arrest Purkayastha and Pranjal and asked them to join the investigation as and when required by the Investigating Officer.

PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt. Limited is also facing an Enforcement Directorate case which has been registered on the basis of the EOW FIR. The High Court has already granted interim protection from arrest to Purkayastha till September 2 in the ED case.

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