Delhi High Court Challenges NewsClick's Protection In Money Laundering Case Amid New Evidence

With new evidence on the table, the court's move underscores intensifying scrutiny over allegations of unlawful financial activities and potential violations of foreign investment regulations.

Delhi High Court

In a dramatic turn of events, the Delhi High Court has set the stage for a fresh legal showdown as it calls upon prominent news portal NewsClick and its editor-in-chief, Prabir Purkayastha, to defend their protective cloak against coercive measures in an ongoing money laundering case. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed an application seeking to overturn an earlier order that granted interim protection to the media outlet, raising concerns over the evolving circumstances.

Justice Saurabh Banerjee, presiding over the case, issued a pointed notice to NewsClick and its chief, Prabir Purkayastha, emphasizing the agency's contention that the earlier safeguard should be reevaluated. The court noted that the ED's submissions carry weight and merit a comprehensive examination, according to PTI.

The legal tussle finds its roots in NewsClick's pursuit of an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) lodged by the ED, a matter already in the throes of judicial proceedings. However, the ED's counsel revealed that fresh evidence has surfaced, shedding light on potential money laundering activities. The ED's argument hinges on the assertion that the interim protection granted earlier cannot be used as a 'piggyback' for the petitioner's advantage, considering the evolving circumstances.

The case takes a complex turn with allegations of a criminal conspiracy involving 'paid news' and the unlawful influx of significant funds, raising questions about adherence to legal norms. The ED's counsel has categorically framed the situation as a violation of established laws, with crores of rupees allegedly being funneled illicitly.

Justice Banerjee's meticulous consideration of the ED's submissions signals a pivotal juncture in the case. The court has scheduled a continuation of the proceedings for September 6, acknowledging the gravity of the matter.

Amidst these legal deliberations, the petitioners' counsel argued against the urgency of the situation, seeking to navigate the proceedings at a measured pace.

The ED's application for vacation of the interim order invokes the Supreme Court's stance against broad 'no coercive action' orders, suggesting that such safeguards could equate to anticipatory bail. The application underscores the significance of adhering to established legal conditions, especially in cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The high-stakes legal drama traces its origins to an FIR initiated by the Delhi Police, which catalyzed the ED's investigation. The probe extended to searches at NewsClick's premises and other locations, revolving around the influx of foreign funds.

Central to the case is the allegation that NewsClick's parent company, PPK Newsclick Studio Private Limited, received a substantial foreign direct investment (FDI) from Worldwide Media Holdings LLC USA during the financial year 2018-19. Authorities contend that this investment was bolstered by artificially inflating the company's share valuation, thereby evading regulatory thresholds for FDI in digital news platforms.

Allegations further suggest that a significant portion of the investment was redirected for purposes other than those initially indicated, culminating in a potential breach of FDI regulations and a subsequent loss to the national exchequer. 

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