The Supreme Court on Friday granted interim protection against any coercive action to two Financial Times journalists who had been summoned by the Gujarat Police in connection with an article on the Adani Group, reported Live Law.
A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra issued the notice on a petition filed by Benjamin Nicholas Brooke Parkin and Chloe Nina Cornish. The matter has been posted for December 1.
The journalists were summoned for a preliminary enquiry on a complaint filed by an investor in Adani Group companies in connection with the article published in the Financial Times titled “Secret paper trail reveals hidden Adani investors”.
The article, published on August 31, alleged that two investors who pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the Adani Group through offshore funds have close ties to the conglomerate’s promoters. The report raised questions about the possible violation of Indian stock market rules.
At Friday’s hearing, senior advocate Siddharth Agarwal, appearing for Parkin and Cornish, told the court that the article was not written by his clients. The authors of the Financial Times report are Dan McCrum and John Reed.
The bench then expressed displeasure about the petitioners approaching the Supreme Court directly. “This trend is now becoming very difficult,” said Justice Gavai.
To this, Agarwal said that one petitioner is in Delhi, while the other is in Mumbai.
“The Gujarat Police have summoned them personally across the state borders, which your lordships have earlier said cannot be done,” he said. “In this context, because your lordships are already seized of the matter, instead of going to both the Delhi High Court and Bombay High Court, that is the reason I am troubling this court.”
He also told the court that allegations against Parkin and Cornish pertain to the publication of a “malicious and false article”. This could amount to a defamation complaint at best, he said.
“If they want certain information, we are absolutely obliged to provide it, but to have the person physically travel from place to place, under no authority of law, is the issue raised here,” said Agarwal.
Last week, the Supreme Court had granted interim protection to journalists Ravi Nair and Anand Mangnale, who authored the OCCRP report. The Gujarat Police’s Ahmedabad Crime Branch sent a summons to Nair in connection with the article on October 16 and to Mangnale on October 25.
Following the summons, Nair and Mangnale moved the Supreme Court, saying that they followed due diligence in their reporting. They also questioned the credibility of the investor who had complained.
The two journalists also told the court that according to publicly available information, the complainant had earlier been barred from participating in the stock market by the Securities and Exchange Board of India in 2009 for three years.