The Supreme Court on Friday told the Delhi Police, Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate to respond to a petition by news website NewsClick seeking guidelines on the search and seizure of electronic devices, Live Law reported.

On October 3, the Delhi Police’s Special Cell seized around 250 electronic devices – including phones, hard disks and laptops – when it raided several journalists associated with NewsClick. The police arrested the website’s founder, Prabir Purkayastha, and human resources head Amit Chakraborty, who remain in judicial custody.

The news website contended that illegal searches and seizures of devices during raids on its office severely hampered its functioning, and that the organisation was forced to work with limited access to its database. It claimed that investigative agencies did not produce warrants during the raids, call independent witnesses or provide essential documents to the journalists.

The case against NewsClick was registered after The New York Times alleged in an August 5 report that the Indian news website had received money from American businessman Neville Roy Singham, who worked closely with the “Chinese government media machine” to spread its propaganda. The first information report describes Singham as an active member of the propaganda department of the Communist Party of China.

NewsClick called the allegations absurd and contended that the proceedings were an attempt to muzzle the free press.

On Friday, the bench initially expressed reluctance to entertain a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, which allows citizens to move the Supreme Court to enforce fundamental rights. However, Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioners, said that the court has entertained other petitions on the same subject.

Sibal was referring to petitions filed by the Foundation for Media Professionals and a group of five academics seeking guidelines on the seizure of personal electronic devices by investigative agencies. Last month, the Supreme Court told the Centre to frame guidelines on the subject within six weeks.

The court on Friday agreed to tag NewsClick’s plea along with the other petitions.