The Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the police not to arrest news website Newsclick’s editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha in an alleged money laundering case pertaining to foreign funding till August 5, Bar and Bench reported.
The police had alleged that Purkayastha received Foreign Direct Investment worth Rs 9.59 crore from Worldwide Media Holdings in the United States in 2018-’19 financial year, according to Bar and Bench. They claimed that PPK Newsclick Studio Private Limited, which owns NewsClick, overvalued its shares to escape the 26% limit on Foreign Direct Investment for news websites.
Newsclick’s counsel Kapil Sibal countered the accusations. “As regards to the allegation of overvaluation, the company through its counsel received clarification from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, confirming there were in fact no restrictions on FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] in digital news media in 2018,” he was quoted as saying by Newslaundry.
Sibal added that the 26% limit on Foreign Direct Investment was only introduced in September 2019.
Sibal also said that the Delhi Police filed a First Information Report in the case in August 2020 but did not carry out an investigation for over 10 months, according to Bar and Bench. The Enforcement Directorate had also registered a case against Newsclick based on the Delhi Police’s FIR.
The lawyer argued that the Delhi Police did not upload the FIR on its website and Purkayastha got to know about the case only after raids at his house.
After hearing the arguments, the court said: “List on August 5, 2021 and till then the petitioner be not arrested. However the petitioner is directed to join the investigation as and when required by the Investigating Officer.”
On June 21, the court had directed the Enforcement Directorate not to take any coercive action Newsclick and Purkayastha until July 5. The court’s order was based on Purkayastha and Newsclick’s petition seeking a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report and protection from action in the intervening period.