A sessions court in Delhi has upheld the release of the electronic devices that the police had seized from the editors of The Wire last year, Live Law reported on Friday.
The police had seized the devices during searches at the news website’s office 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 Wednesday, Additional Sessions Judge Pawan Singh Rajawat observed that the retention of the electronic devices is causing the editors undue hardship, reported Live Law. The court also noted that the seizure impinges upon the journalists’ fundamental rights of freedom of profession, speech and expression.
“The press is considered the fourth pillar of our great democracy and if it is not allowed to function and operate independently, it would cause serious injury to the foundations of our democracy,” the court said.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the court also noted that The Wire’s editors are working for the portal that publishes news and information, and need the electronic devices for their work.
The police had challenged the September 23 order by a magisterial court directing that the devices be released within 15 days. Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Siddhartha Malik of the Tis Hazari Court noted that the devices have been in the police’s possession for a long time and that there are no reasonable grounds to hold on to them.
Last year, Malviya had filed a complaint against the 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, 2022. The organisation claimed that it had been deceived by a member of its investigative team.
On October 29 last year, the publication filed a police complaint against researcher Devesh Kumar, who had worked on the 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.”