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Law

NewsClick Accepted Illegal Funds To Push Anti-India, Pro-China Agenda: Police

NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha was arrested following raids at home and the news organisation's office.

By - Ritika Jain | 6 Oct 2023 11:01 AM GMT

The Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice and directed the Delhi Police to respond to allegations that in the remand application, the probe agency apparently failed to disclose the grounds for arrest.

"Today there is a Supreme Court judgment which is staring in the eye," Justice Tushar Gedela said referring to the verdict where the top court held that grounds of arrest must be communicated in writing to an accused.

The high court’s direction came on a plea filed by NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and human resources head Amit Chakravarthy on a plea challenging their arrest and seeking to quash the FIR in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against them.

The Delhi Police in their FIR accused Purkayastha, Chakravarthy, social activist Gautam Navlakha, and others for allegedly accepting money from illegal sources to peddle a false narrative against India.

Navalakha, who is also an accused in the five-year-old Bhima Koregaon case is currently under house arrest.

"Where are the courts coming to?" senior advocate Kapil Sibal asked the Delhi High Court as he outlined the series of events leading from Purkayastha’s arrest on October 3. Sibal told the courts about blatant misuse of the law and how Purkayastha was not informed about the grounds for his arrest.

The senior advocate said that the Delhi Police deliberately misled Purkayastha’s lawyers, even as the government counsel and a legal aid counsel were present at the early morning hearing for remand at the magistrate’s residence.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta sought time till Monday to reply saying he was unaware of certain facts that were presented before the court.

Purkayastha was arrested on October 3 after the Delhi Police raided the homes, and offices of at least 40 people associated with the news portal. The phones and laptops were confiscated even as several journalists, columnists, and others associated with the news portal were detained for further questioning.

In the aftermath of Purkayastha’s arrest, the New York Times—which first raised allegations against the news editor, released a statement earlier today saying, “We would find it deeply troubling and unacceptable if any government were to use our reporting as an excuse to silence journalists.”

Purkayastha’s arrest has been widely criticised by the media fraternity who have accused the government of muzzling its critics.

BOOM looks at the case against Purkayastha and the FIR filed by the Delhi Police.

Accepted illegal foreign funds to peddle anti-India, pro-China narrative: Delhi Police

Delhi Police has alleged that NewsClick—the online news portal—accepted illegal foreign funds "worth crores" from Chinese entities to "intentionally peddle" anti-India and pro-China narratives. They further alleged that the news portal attempted to "tinker" with northern India borders to show Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh were not part of this country.

By supporting the farmers' organisation, the news organisation caused losses to the Indian economy amounting to hundreds of crores; even as actively propagated false narratives to discredit the Indian government of its handling of COVID–19.

"The funds were accepted to undermine the unity and territorial integrity of India," the FIR stated, and “foreign funds (were) fraudulently infused by Neville Roy Singham", an American tech millionaire alleged to have close ties with the Chinese government. The police said Purkayastha, along with social activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, journalists Urmilesh and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta among others intentionally peddled a narrative—both domestically and globally—to show how Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are not part of India.

Chinese telecoms like Vivo and Xiaomi floated thousands of shell companies to illegally route the funds, the police said.

The police have charged Purkayastha, Navalakha, and Chakravarthy, among others under provisions of the UAPA for trying "to cause disaffection against India" and to "threaten this country’s unity, integrity, (and) security".

"In furtherance of this conspiracy to disrupt the sovereignty of India and cause disaffection against India, a large amounts of funds was routed from China in a circuitous and camouflaged manner and paid news were intentionally peddled, criticizing domestic policies, development projects of India and promoting, projecting and defending policies and programmes of the Chinese government," the FIR read.

The Delhi Police further submitted that the news editor conspired with a group—People's Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)—to sabotage the 2019 Lok Sabha electoral process.