A Delhi court on Saturday directed the police to release the electronic devices seized from the editors of The Wire in October, reported Live Law.
The police had seized the devices during searches at the office of the news website and the homes of four of its editors – Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu, Sidharth Bhatia and Jahnavi Sen. The home of the organisation’s head of product, Mithun Kidambi, was also searched.
The seizures were made as part of the investigation into a first information report filed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Amit Malviya, who accused the editors of cheating, forgery, defamation and criminal conspiracy.
On Saturday, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Siddhartha Malik of Tis Hazari Court noted that the devices have been in the possession of police possession for a very long time and there were no reasonable grounds to hold on to them.
“The argument of the IO [investigating officer] that the devices might again be required for some subsequent investigation is speculative in nature based on the presumption of coming to light some new fact at a later stage, which may or may not happen,” said Malik.
He added that mirror images of the devices would be available in the forensic science lab and ordered the police to release the devices within 15 days.
Malviya had filed a complaint against editors of The Wire after the news website published articles claiming that the BJP leader had special privileges through an Instagram program called X-Check that ensured that any posts he reported were removed from the platform immediately, with “no questions asked”.
The Wire retracted the articles on October 23 last year. It also claimed that it had been deceived by a member of its investigative team.
On October 29, the publication filed a police complaint against researcher Devesh Kumar, who had worked on the Meta articles, claiming that he “fabricated and supplied documents, emails and other material such as videos with a view to damaging The Wire and its reputation.”
Meta is the parent firm of Instagram.