Delhi court grants police more time to complete NewsClick probe

A court here on Friday granted the Delhi Police 20 days more to complete its investigation against NewsClick founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha in a case lodged under anti-terror law UAPA over allegation that the news portal received money to spread pro-China propaganda.

Additional Sessions Judge Pawan Kumar asked the special cell of Delhi Police to file the charge sheet within 20 days, after the probe agency said it required more time to conclude its investigation which was “at a crucial stage”.

The court had on December 22 granted the city police 60 more days to complete the probe.

The judge also extended the judicial custody of Purkayastha and accused-turned-approver Amit Chakravarty, NewsClick’s HR department head, till March 15.

During the proceedings, the judge voiced displeasure over protracted investigation by the city police.

“What have you done in the last 150 days? If you had utilised these days properly, you would not need an extension… Such a large conspiracy, so many people are allegedly involved, and you have arrested only one person. In the past 150 days of investigation you have only one person arrested. You have names of the people but you have arrested only one person,” the judge remarked.

The city police told the court they have taken “prompt steps” to conduct the probe and said data collected during the investigation needed thorough examination.

“There are nearly four lakh e-mails and more than 100 digital documents and one of the accused is residing outside India…There are administrative works which are pending which have to be completed before filing the charge sheet. We are in the process of appreciating evidence and summarising them,” the investigating officer (IO) told the court.

The judge told the officer: “You (IO) are saying you have the names but during this time they would have got rid of the evidence after having come to know that their co-conspirators have been arrested. According to the defence, EOW (economic offences wing of Delhi Police) began investigation in 2020.”

The IO then said he was not aware of the probe being conducted by the EOW.

“We are not aware what EOW has done, we are conducting a probe on the basis of the information available to us… We are only seeking 30 days’ time from February 29 onwards,” IO told the judge.

The court passed the order on an application moved by police, which had sought 30 more days to complete the investigation.

The Special Cell of Delhi Police had arrested Purkayastha and Chakravarty on October 3.

Without the court’s permission, the probe agency would have had three months from the day of the arrest to complete the probe.

As per the law, if a probe agency fails to complete the investigation within the stipulated time, the accused in custody have a statutory right to bail.

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According to the FIR, a large amount of funds to the news portal came from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.

It also alleged Purkayastha conspired with a group — People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) — to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Raids were conducted at 88 locations in Delhi and seven in other states on October 3 against the suspects named in the FIR and those whose names surfaced in the analysis of data, police said.

Around 300 electronic gadgets were also seized from the offices of NewsClick and the residences of the journalists who were examined.

Following the raids, 46 individuals, including nine female journalists, were questioned by the Special Cell.

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