ED moves Delhi HC seeking to vacate interim protection to NewsClick, its promoter
The ED raided the premises of NewsClick and its editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha in September 2021 on charges of money laundering
The Enforcement Directorate on Thursday, August 10, moved the Delhi High Court seeking to vacate its order that granted interim protection from coercive action to online news portal NewsClick and its editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha, official sources said.
NewsClick is again in the spotlight after a recent New York Times report claimed that the news portal was part of a global network that received funding from American billionaire Neville Roy Singham, who allegedly works closely with the Chinese government media machine.
The HC had on July 29, 2021 extended the interim protection to the portal, represented through its holding company PPK NewsClick Studio Pvt. Ltd., and Purkayastha, uptill the next date of hearing.
The ED informed the court that it has unearthed "additional material in this investigation which discloses the commission of the offence of money laundering" and the "relevant facts" in this context will be produced before the court in a sealed cover "as it is a matter of ongoing investigation".
It said it has also informed about the fresh material to the predicate agency (Delhi Police) whose FIR it had relied on to file a criminal case against the accused under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The agency requested the court to vacate its order as the interim protection granted to the petitioners (NewsClick's holding company and Purkayastha) amounted to "virtually granting anticipatory bail to the petitioner No.2 (Purkayastha), who is the prime suspect/accused in the present case."
It said since the matter was not taken up or as no effective hearing has taken place in the matter after July 29, 2021, the order for interim protection was continuing.
The agency also said the petitioners' plea to provide the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), the ED's equivalent document for a police FIR, to them will not be possible as per the settled principal by the Supreme Court in the 2022 case of Vijay Madanlal Choudhary and others vs Union of India.
"In view of the above, since ECIR can no longer be provided to the accused and as for grant of anticipatory bail the twin conditions of Section 45 are required to be complied, the continuation of interim protection to the accused/petitioner virtually amounts to grant of anticipatory bail in a PMLA case without satisfaction of the twin conditions."
"Therefore, the orders dated 21.06.2021 and 29.07.2021 granting interim protection must be vacated at the earliest in view of the settled position of law," the ED said in its petition.
The premises of NewsClick and Purkayastha were raided by the ED in September, 2021. It last year attached a flat, worth Rs 4.52 crore, located in south Delhi's Saket area linked to Purkayastha apart from fixed deposits worth Rs 41 lakh as part of this investigation.