Updated: February 14, 2021 7:55:14 am
Searches by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) at premises associated with NewsClick, an online news portal, continued for the fifth day Saturday with agency officials camping at the residence of the portal’s editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and author Githa Haraharan, who is a shareholder of the company that runs the portal. ED officials finally completed their search and left Purkayastha House late on Saturday night.
Usually, ED searches get over within a couple of days. Officials claimed the raid continued because of “technical issues” related to “procuring a data dump” of electronic devices owned by Purkayastha and Hariharan. However, this has meant the editor and the author being virtually locked in their house with ED sleuths since their presence is essential during an ongoing search.
“They did not want us to take their electronic devices. So we have no choice but to work on the devices at their residence and in their presence. The backup of their emails is taking a long time. Apart from that, the searches are practically over,” a senior official said.
Purkayastha is a senior journalist who in his student days was jailed during the Emergency. Hariharan, a celebrated author has written several novels, short fiction and essays. She won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for her first novel The Thousand
Faces of Night’ in 1993. In 1999, her petition against the Reserve Bank of India rules not recognising women as guardians of minors led to the historic decision of the Supreme Court that granted equal rights to women as guardians.
Sources said ED began its searches associated with Newsclick, its journalists and directors on February 9. Different teams of ED searched 10 premises across Delhi and Ghaziabad in UP. While searches were conducted at the Newsclick office at South Delhi’s Saulajab, teams raided premises of associated companies and shareholders of Newsclick’s parent company PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt Ltd.
Sources said the searches were conducted at premises associated with PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt Ltd, PP Conectmedia, PPK Newsctick Studio LLP and J Enterprises among four entities.
Sources said, out of these, searches at six premises were concluded on the same day. Searches at three premises had been completed the next day.
NewsClick has said the raids are an attempt to browbeat “an independent and progressive voice through a vindictive course of action”.
ED sources claim they are probing the news portal in connection with investments of Rs 30 crore from three US companies. Newsclick has said it has nothing to hide and the company has followed all legal procedures.
On Friday, NewsClick issued a statement saying the team is cooperating with the Enforcement Directorate.
It said “as of Friday afternoon, ED raids have been going on at the house of” Purkayastha, “for close to 80 hours”. Purkayastha and author Githa Hariharan have been “detained in their house since the beginning of the raid”, it said.
Newslick’s office “was raided for over 36 hours and some equipment vital to our functioning as a news organisation was seized” and “communication devices of directors and senior management have also been seized, which has, therefore, limited their ability to return to work or indeed, respond to queries of the media”, the statement said.
Despite this, the statement said, NewsClick “has cooperated fully with the authorities, and will continue to do so…We have nothing to hide, as we have operated completely in accordance with the law.”
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