NewsClick rejects allegations in FIR as untenable and bogus; Delhi police search scribe’s house in Kerala

The portal termed the charges against it saying a blatant attempt to muzzle the free and independent press in India.

BySouth First Desk

Published Oct 07, 2023 | 3:10 PMUpdatedOct 07, 2023 | 5:20 PM

A protest in solidarity with NewsClick in New York, USA. (X)

The NewsClick portal rejected the allegations in the Delhi police-filed FIR against it as untenable and bogus, saying they were “nothing but a blatant attempt to muzzle the free and independent press in India”.

In an FIR filed under anti-terror law UAPA against NewsClick, the Delhi Police alleged that a large sum of funds came from China to disrupt India’s sovereignty and cause disaffection against the country as part of a “larger criminal conspiracy”.

It claimed that US-based businessman and social activist Neville Roy Singham, an active member of the propaganda department of the Communist Party of China, fraudulently infused the foreign fund. The Delhi Police served a copy of the FIR to the portal on Friday, 6 October.

Related: Delhi HC says remand order passed without hearing lawyers of the arrested

‘No instructions from China’

“The NewsClick has not received any funding or instructions from China or Chinese entities. Further, NewsClick has never committed or sought to encourage violence, secession, or any illegal act in any manner whatsoever,” the portal said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“A perusal of NewsClick‘s coverage, which is freely available online, should be sufficient to indicate the veracity of NewsClick‘s claims,” it further said.

NewsClick added that it has full faith in the judicial system and expressed confidence that its stand would be vindicated.

On Tuesday, 3 October, the Delhi Police arrested NewsClick’s founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and its HR head Amit Chakravarty after carrying out searched at nearly 88 locations linked to the portal and its associates, including journalists.

“The allegations in the FIR, apart from being ex facie untenable and bogus, have been made time and again, in investigations by three government agencies, the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offences Wing, Delhi Police, and the income-tax department,” it said.

It said that none of the investigations led to any chargesheets or complaints over the past three years.”

Interview: Paranjoy Guha Thakurta speaks on NewsClick, raids

‘Illegal arrests’

In the statement, the portal said that Purkayastha was granted interim protection in these investigations, and the latest FIR has been registered only to circumvent this and carry out “illegal arrests” under the draconian UAPA.

The portal also said Purkayastha was supplied with a copy of the FIR registered by the Delhi Police Special Cell only on Thursday night pursuant to the directions of the Special Judge, Patiala House.

“We immediately moved the High Court of Delhi seeking quashing of the FIR as well as release of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakraborty from illegal police custody,” it said.

The Delhi Police had registered an FIR under section sections 13, 16,17, 18 and 22C of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and 153A, and 120B of the IPC. They arrested Purkayastha and the human resources head for allegedly receiving foreign funds from China to disrupt India’s sovereignty and cause disaffection against the country.

The Delhi Police, meanwhile, is likely to question 10 people named in the FIR. This includes senior journalists of NewsClick and contributors.

Police officers said they have called another set of people allegedly connected to the case. At least 20 people have already been interviewed on Thursday and Friday.

NewsClick released a statement on Wednesday contending that it was not informed of the particulars of the offences it has been charged with.

Related: Targeted since 2021, not one charge sheet filed, says NewsClick 

Delhi HC issues notice

Meanwhile, the trial court’s order remanding Purkayastha and Chakravarty in police custody came under the scanner in the Delhi High Court said there appeared to be something missing as the order was apparently passed without the counsels of the arrested individuals.

The high court said there appeared to be something missing as the order was apparently passed without the counsels of the arrested individuals.

Besides their arrest, the duo also challenged the trial court’s order remanding them in seven-day police custody and sought quashing of the FIR in the case.

The high court issued notice and sought the Delhi Police’s response on the two petitions challenging their arrest and remand order, and seeking the quashing of the FIR.

It also asked the police to file a reply with regard to the interim applications seeking release till the pendency of the petitions.

The high court asked the investigating officer to produce the case diary before it on Monday and ensure that the medical condition of Chakravarty, who is differently-abled, was not compromised.

Meanwhile, Pranjoy Guha Thakurtha, one among the questioned, told South First: “They couldn’t get him (Prabir) under the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act), the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) or the Income Tax Acts, so finally they got him under police custody under UAPA.”

“I haven’t seen the FIR. It is said that the FIR was launched on the 17th of August. So almost a month-and-a-half later, all these things happened. It is sending a chilling… message to all journalists that this is what the government is capable of doing,” he said.

“They don’t want independent critical journalism to continue in this country. That’s the only conclusion I can draw,” Guha Thakurta added.

Related: Court asks police to respond on NewsClick case as protests mount

Delhi police raid journalist’s house in Kerala

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police on Friday, 6 October, conducted a raid and seized the laptop and phone of a Malayali journalist and former NewsClick employee, Anusha Paul, from her residence near Kodumon in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district.

After a three-member team of the Delhi Police recorded her statement and confiscated her electronic devices, Paul told the media that she was questioned about her association with NewsClick and the CPI(M).

She said the questions ranged from whether she reported on farmers’ protest, anti-NRC-CAA protests, or about the Covid-19 management of the Union government.

“This is a witch-hunt to threaten the organisation and its employees who used to raise voice against the Narendra Modi government and the RSS,” Paul said.

Paul was staying in Kerala for the treatment of a close family member.

She told the media that the Delhi Police asked her whether she knows the Delhi state secretary of the CPI(M), KM Tiwari.

“Of course, I know him. I told them that. He is the state secretary of the CPI(M). I am a CPI(M) worker. I am a state committee member of Delhi unit of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and its state treasurer,” she said.

She added that the Kerala Police were not part of the raid team.

“Later the local police came and said they were not aware of the raids,” she claimed.

(With PTI inputs)