FEMA case: Delhi HC dismisses Mahua Moitra plea against ED leaks to media

The ED had on Monday issued a fresh summons to Moitra in connection with the case after she failed to appear before the agency

Expelled former TMC MP Mahua Moitra (photo: PTI)
Expelled former TMC MP Mahua Moitra (photo: PTI)

NH Digital

In a setback to expelled Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, the Delhi High Court on Friday dismissed her plea to restrain the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from leaking 'confidential, unverified information' to the media in connection with an alleged foreign exchange violation case.

While justice Subramonium Prasad said the plea was being dismissed, a detailed order is still awaited.

The ED had on Monday issued a fresh summons to Moitra in connection with the case after she failed to appear before the agency, which wants to interrogate her and document her statement in accordance with the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

During the hearing, the ED said there was no release or "leakage" of information from its end. In her plea, Moitra had sought to restrain 19 media houses, including ANI, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Times of India, India Today, NDTV, The Hindu, The Print etc. from publishing and circulating any "unverified, unconfirmed, false, or derogatory content" in relation to the pending investigation against her.

The ED has acted against the procedure prescribed under law by leaking “confidential, half-baked, speculative/unconfirmed information to the media in relation to the ongoing proceedings/investigation. Such leakage has hampered the process of the investigation and violated the rights of the petitioner such as privacy, dignity of the individual concerned as well as her right to fair investigation”, thereby compromising the investigation, the plea said.

Appearing for the TMC leader, senior advocate Rebecca John said Moitra was summoned on 14 February, and even before she had started from her home, news that the ED had summoned her was out.

“The material that is being published... a room was booked worth Rs 7 lakh... an atmosphere is being created against me. Do I not have rights? My application is limited... it's not about the agency's right to investigate... it's about the information being disseminated.”

Moitra said the ED intended to subject her to a media trial by leaking sensitive information, which would not only prejudice the investigation, but also tarnish her reputation. The ED summoned Moitra under FEMA on 14 and 20 February.

Justice Prasad observed that as of now, there was nothing as the news report in question made factual assertions. The court, however, asked John about how the reports of Moitra moving to court were published in the media even before the court heard the matter.

Additional solicitor-general Chetan Sharma, who appeared for the Union government, pointed out that the media reports on Moitra were based on sources and the government didn’t need to respond to these matters.

Advocate Siddhant Kumar, who appeared for ANI, said, "Reporting is concerning a public figure regarding acts committed as a public official. It is the right of the press to report on the conduct of public officials such as Mahua Moitra, who is also seeking to contest the next general election." 

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