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Delhi Court Upholds Release of Devices of The Wire’s Editors, Seized by Delhi Police a Year ago

Newsclick Report |
The Delhi Police is not only causing “undue hardship to the editors but the act also impinges upon their fundamental right of freedom of profession as well as of speech and expression”, said the judge.
the wire

Seizure of devices 'impinges on their fundamental right of freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business as guaranteed under Article 19(1)g of the Constitution", the court said.

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday upheld a magisterial court’s order on September 23, to return the electronic devices seized by the Delhi Police from the editors of news portal The Wire in October last year. The Delhi Police had moved a petition challenging the order.

The devices of the portal’s founding editors Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu, Sidharth Bhatia, deputy editor Jahnavi Sen and product-cum-business head Mithun Kidambi were seized after searches conducted by the police following a first information report or FIR filed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT Cell head Amit Malviya.

Coming down heavily on the police, the court said that “the investigating agency by continuous seizure of electronic devices of the respondents is not only causing undue hardship to them, but impinges on their fundamental right of freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business as guaranteed under Article 19(1)g of the Constitution of India as admittedly the respondents are working for news portal The Wire which is engaged in disseminating news and information and the electronic devices were being used for their work” ( as quoted by LiveLaw).

According to the LiveLaw report, the “judge also said that the impugned order not only safeguarded the interest of the editors but also ensures that they are duty bound to keep the devices safe from tampering” till the conclusion of investigation or disposal of the case.

The court has also directed the editors to furnish an affidavit before the investigating officer or IO to keep the devices in their own custody. The compliance report by the IO has to be filed on October 21.

BJP’s Malviya had filed complaint against The Wire, for “tarnishing his reputation” that was retracted by the portal after an internal review. The report had claimed that he used his special privilege to pull down 700 odd social media posts in Facebook (now Meta).

The police raid at The Wire office lasted for about six hours, and was conducted by 25 officers who refused the outlet’s lawyer entry to the premises and confiscated computers used for video editing and a hard disk containing information such as employee salaries, Vardarajan had told reporters then.

The court order comes close on the heels of widespread raids by the Delhi Police in the office and residences of about 80 NewsClick employees (past and present), including about 46 journalists, some of whom are freelancers and contributors. The founder editor of the portal and its human resource head were arrested.

The scale of the raids under the draconian anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act), in which electronic devices were seized, including of some family members, has created widespread outrage withing the media fraternity. There have been protests across the country. Journalist organisations have also written to the President of India and the Chief Justice of India, seeking their intervention in matter, especially the seizure of devices that is hampering journalists in carrying out their professional duties.

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