PPK Newsclick Studio Private Limited, which has been accused of money laundering by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Thursday told the Delhi High Court that the Reserve Bank of India has rebutted the allegation that the news organisation contravened Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) guidelines while receiving foreign direct investment.
The ED had initiated a probe against NewsClick based on an FIR registered by Delhi Police and raided the news portal’s office in February.
The submission was made during the hearing of a petition filed by NewsClick, through advocate Arshdeep Singh, to quash the Delhi Police FIR.
The FIR registered in August 2020 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, USA, during the financial year 2018- 19 which “was made by greatly overvaluing the shares of the company to avoid the alleged cap of 26% of FDI in a digital news website”.
Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan, representing NewsClick before the court of Justice Yogesh Khanna, read out the contents of a status report sent to it by Delhi Police and said the RBI has told the investigation agency that there “was no delay in the issue of shares as well as reporting as per extant FEMA guidelines in the case of PPK”.
The entire FIR is that we had contravened FDI, added Krishnan, while asking court to record his submission.
The status report on Thursday was not on record before the court. Since the copy of the status report is not on record, it would not be advisable to say anything on the submission, said the court, while listing the case for hearing on August 23.
Justice Khanna in the order said Avinder Singh, Additional Standing Counsel for the State, has sought two weeks to file the status report.
Krishnan’s submission was also recorded in the order, according to which, “they have already been supplied a copy of the status report duly signed by ACP Anil Kumar on 26.07.202 stating inter alia that no cognizable offence is made out per reply of the Reserve Bank of India”.
“The status report be filed and placed on record within two weeks from today. Any discrepancy in status report(s) may be pointed out,” reads the order.
Meanwhile, a single bench of the High Court also granted interim protection from arrest to NewsClick Director Prabir Purkayastha in the case registered by ED till September 2. Justice Mukta Gupta said no coercive action will be taken against him, subject to him joining the investigation as and when directed by the investigation agency.
Justice Gupta was hearing the petitions filed by NewsClick against the ED case and Purkayastha’s anticipatory bail plea. While hearing a petition seeking a copy of the ECIR lodged by the ED against NewsClick, the court in June had directed the agency to not take coercive action against the news organisation and its editor-in-chief Purkayastha.