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Urmilesh, Abhisar questioned again in NewsClick case; court asks police to provide FIR copy to arrested accused

This comes two days after NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakravarty were arrested in connection with the alleged funding to the NewsClick from China to peddle fake narrative about the central government.
Last Updated : 05 October 2023, 15:32 IST
Last Updated : 05 October 2023, 15:32 IST

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The Delhi Police Thursday questioned journalists Urmilesh and Abhisar Sharma for a second time this week in the NewClick foreign funding case, even as a court here directed the authorities to provide the copy of FIR to two persons arrested in the case under anti-terror law UAPA.

This comes two days after NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakravarty were arrested in connection with the alleged funding to the NewsClick from China to peddle fake narrative about the central government.

Urmilesh and Sharma reached the Delhi Police Special Cell's office at Lodhi Colony and joined the investigation on Thursday afternoon, the officials said.

A total of 46 journalists and contributor to the NewsClick were questioned on Tuesday and their mobile phones and other electronic gadgets were seized.

Journalists' bodies on Thursday expressed concern about the raids, saying while the law must take its course, the government and its agencies should respect the freedom of the press and ensure the investigation is fair and transparent.

Meanwhile, Additional Sessions Judge Hardeep Kaur allowed the applications of Purkayastha and Chakravarty seeking a copy of the FIR. A detailed order is awaited.

During the proceedings, the counsel for Chakravarty also sought in writing the grounds for his arrest, asserting it was a constitutional safeguard for the accused.

The advocate cited some judgments of the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court to claim that though the offences alleged against his client under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) were 'serious', there were no statutory grounds for the prosecution to deny him a copy of the FIR.

Purkayastha's advocate, appearing through video-conferencing, argued it was the accused's right to get a copy of the FIR.

Special Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava opposed the applications. He cited a Supreme Court judgment to say an accused has to first approach the police commissioner who would then form a committee to consider the request.

A senior police official said Urmilesh and Abhisar Sharma were questioned at the Lodhi Colony office of the Special Cell.

Sharma was questioned on Tuesday as well after which he had said he was not scared and will keep asking tough question to the government.

According to the remand copy the Delhi Police submitted in the court on Wednesday, the 'illegally routed foreign funds' have been siphoned off by Purkayastha and his associates -- Joseph Raj, Anoop Chakraborty (brother of Amit Chakraborty) and Bappaditya Sinha (promoter of Virtunet Systems Pvt Ltd).

'It is also learnt that aforementioned funds were distributed to Gautam Navlakha, associates of Teesta Seetalwaad namely Javed Anand, Tamara, Jibran, Urmilesh, Aratrika Halder, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Trina Shankar, Abhisar Sharma, etc.,' it stated.

The All India Newspaper Editors Conference (AINEC) expressed concern about the raids conducted on the premises of several journalists. 'It is important that the investigating agencies pursue actual offences, if any, and not use their powers to muzzle the voice of journalists or to intimidate them,' it said.

'A free press is a key pillar of democracy and it is the duty of the government to uphold the independence of media,' it said.

Another body, Youth Journalist Association, said in a statement that it stands by journalists doing their job with integrity and honesty but will not support those 'working against the interest of the nation and takes Chinese funds to become a tool for their anti-India propaganda or in any way involved in anti-national activities.' Raids were conducted on Tuesday at 88 locations in Delhi and seven in other states on the suspects named in the FIR and surfaced in the analysis of data, the police said.

The police sealed NewsClick's office in Delhi, officials said, adding that 46 suspects were questioned and digital devices, including laptops and mobile phones, and documents taken away for examination.

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Published 05 October 2023, 15:32 IST

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