Mahua Moitra's plea alleging media leaks: Delhi HC to pass order on 23 Feb

Former MP says the ED wants to subject her to a media trial by leaking information, which may prejudice the investigation against her

Former Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra (photo: National Herald archives)
Former Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

The Delhi High Court on Thursday said it will pass an order on 23 February on TMC (Trinamool Congress) leader Mahua Moitra's plea to restrain the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from allegedly leaking any 'confidential, unverified information' to the media related to the ongoing probe against her under the Foreign Exchange Management Act.

After hearing the matter, justice Subramonium Prasad reserved the order and fixed it for 23 February for pronouncement.

During the hearing, the ED said there was no release or "leakage" of information from its end.

In her plea, Moitra has 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, 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.

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.

"That is news. You are a public person. It is only a factual assertion...As of now, there is nothing," the judge remarked.

Additional solicitor-general Chetan Sharma, who appeared for the Union government, pointed out that the media reports on Moitra were based on sources.

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."

BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had alleged that Moitra asked questions in the Lok Sabha to target the Adani Group and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Dubey claimed that she did so at the behest of businessman Darshan Hiranandani, who allegedly offered her gifts in exchange. In an interview, Moitra agreed that she had provided her Parliament login and password details to Hiranandani, but refuted allegations that she had received cash from him.

She was then expelled from the Lok Sabha in December 2023 after the Parliamentary ethics committee held her guilty in the 'cash-for-query' case. The ED summoned Moitra under FEMA on 14 and 20 February.

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