Will cause serious injury to foundations of democracy if Press is not allowed to operate independently: Court – The Indian Express

Stating that it would cause serious injury to the foundations of democracy if the press is not allowed to operate independently, a Delhi court Wednesday rejected a plea moved by the Delhi Police against an order to release electronic devices seized from the editors of The Wire during searches conducted in October last year.
The devices were seized after an FIR for forgery, defamation and criminal conspiracy was lodged against them by BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya.
The Court of Additional Sessions Judge Pawan Singh Rajawat noted that the investigating agency, by continuous seizure of electronic devices, impinged upon the fundamental right of the news portal. “The Press is considered the Fourth Pillar of our great Democracy and if it is not allowed to function and operate independently, it would cause serious injury to the foundations of our Democracy,” noted the court.
The court upheld the previous order which was passed in September directing the release of the seized devices.
It was argued by police that the earlier order passed by a Delhi court was illegal and that the magistrate had not “correctly” understood Section 76 of the IT Act. Police further submitted that the devices were required for further investigation and, if released, the accused could tamper with them.
The Wire argued that mirror images of the electronic devices had already been taken which were exact copies of the actual devices and, therefore, the seized devices were no longer required for investigation.
The court rejected the police’s arguments, stating that Section 76 of the IT Act is applicable only after the conclusion of trial. Citing various provisions of the CrPC, the court held that it had powers to “make orders as it thinks fit for the proper custody of property produced before it” during any trial. It further cited, relying on other judgments, that the power of the court remains when the investigation hasn’t concluded.
The court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Siddhartha Malik had earlier in September ordered the release of electronic devices of The Wire’s editorial team, noting that the devices had been in possession of the police for a long time and that there were no reasonable grounds to hold on to them.
The devices of Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu, Sidharth Bhatia, Jahnavi Sen, and Mithun Kadambi were seized by police while investigating an FIR filed by Malviya alleging damage to his reputation following The Wire’s claim that Malviya had special powers to order the takedown of posts on Instagram.
Nirbhay ThakurNirbhay ThakurNirbhay Thakur is a trainee journalist with The Indian Express. He rep… read more


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