New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Monday, July 5, extended the interim protection from coercive action granted to news portal Newsclick and its editor-in-chief in connection with a money laundering case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Justice Mukta Gupta also issued notice and sought ED’s response on a plea by Newsclick founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha seeking anticipatory bail in the PMLA case.
The high court noted that a copy of Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered by the ED in the case has not been provided to the petitioners yet.
Interim order to continue till the next date of hearing, the court said while posting the matter for July 29.
The ED has taken cognisance of a Delhi Police FIR to initiate a money laundering probe and conducted searches on the premises of a digital news platform and several other places in connection with the money received from overseas.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the news portal and its founder, submitted that till date they have not received the copy of ECIR by the ED, as it was assured earlier.
The petitioners were also represented through senior advocate Dayan Krishnan and lawyer Arshdeep Singh.
Advocate Amit Mahajan, representing the ED, submitted that Purkayastha had appeared before the agency for investigation once and had sought 10 days’ time to bring certain documents.
However, thereafter he did not appear and said that their petition is pending in the high court, he said.
When the court asked why the agency has not yet supplied the ECIR copy to the petitioners, the counsel said ED was waiting for him to appear before it where it would provide the ECIR copy.
Mahajan also said the agency has filed an application seeking to dispose of the petition for supply of ECIR copy as they will provide the document.
He also said the agency will issue fresh summons to Purkayastha to join the investigation.
To this, the judge orally said, So when you issue summons, also give the copy of ECIR to him.
The company, through another petition, has already sought quashing of the FIR lodged by Delhi Police on the allegations of foreign funding on the ground that it does not disclose any cognisable offences as alleged.
The allegations in the FIR are that the petitioner company PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt Ltd received Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of Rs 9.59 crore from Worldwide Media Holdings LLC USA during the financial year 2018-19.
It was alleged that the investment was made by greatly overvaluing the shares of the petitioner company to avoid the alleged cap of 26 per cent of FDI in a digital news website.
It was further alleged that over 45 per cent of this investment was diverted/siphoned off for the payment of salary/consultancy, rent and other expenses, which payments are alleged to have been made for ulterior motives.
Therefore, it was alleged that the company has violated the FDI and other laws of the country and has caused a loss to the government exchequer.
The petition seeking quashing of the Delhi Police FIR is already listed for hearing on July 29.
The high court had on June 21 directed the ED not to take coercive action against the news portal and its editor-in-chief in connection with the case.
It had issued notice to the ED on the portal’s plea seeking a copy of the ECIR lodged by it in the case.