The Income Tax Department on Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that the material seized during the raid on news website Newslaundry’s office is in safe custody and will not be leaked, The Indian Express reported.
The High Court took note of the assurance and disposed of a petition by the news outlet seeking directions to the department not to leak any material to a third party, including the media.
The Income Tax Department had conducted a raid on Newslaundry’s office on September 10. The raid was aimed at verifying tax payment details and remittances made by the organisation, officials said.
The department had carried out a similar raid at the office of news website Newsclick on the same day.
On September 17, the Delhi High Court had asked the department’s counsel to seek instructions on giving an undertaking against any leak. The bench had also asked the officer concerned to appear before the court on Tuesday.
The Income Tax Department on Tuesday told the court that the seized material will be used only for the investigation and the principle of confidentiality in the Income Tax Act will be followed.
The bench of Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla said that the department was bound by its assurance, Live Law reported. It added that Newslaundry can approach the court again if the need arises.
In the previous hearing, the court had remarked that leaking of data was contrary to public interest. “It’s ethically, morally wrong,” the court had said. “We have seen it on channels, people’s data that’s been seized is openly being displayed, that should not happen.”
The Editors Guild said that the “dangerous trend” of government agencies harassing and intimidating independent media undermines constitutional democracy.
Digipub, an association of 11 digital news organisations, said that it “condemns in the strongest terms the sustained pattern of intimidation” against the two news outlets.
The Foundation for Media Professionals said that officials seizing Newslaundry co-founder Abhinandan Sekhri’s mobile phone and laptop amounted to breach of the confidentiality of journalistic sources.