A Delhi court ordered the release of electronic devices of The Wire‘s editorial team seized during police investigations against the media house last year, LiveLaw reported on Sunday. The court issued the order on Saturday in a case filed by the editors requesting the release of their devices.
Adding that there was no “reasonable ground” to continue holding the devices, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Siddhartha Naik of the Tiz Hazri court ordered the release within 15 days. The devices cannot be indefinitely held by the investigating officer based on the speculation that an uncertain discovery in the case may take place in the future, the court observed. The devices had been in the investigating officer’s possession for a long time, the court added, with mirror images available should they be required in future investigations.
Why it matters: The police’s broad search and seizure powers are the subject of multiple Supreme Court challenges. A group of academics alleged that seizing devices could damage their stored academic work. A group of media professionals separately argued that seizing devices amounts to a privacy violation, while requesting passwords to unlock the devices is a violation of the right against self-incrimination. While movement in these cases has been slow, the government has floated a new criminal law bill, which explicitly allows for courts and the police to summon all forms of digital evidence in cases. As we’ve previously reported, “the legal backing will certainly provide a heightened impetus to law enforcement agencies to demand the production of communication devices”.
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The devices of Siddharth Varadarajan, M.K. Venu, Sidharth Bhatia, Jahnavi Sen, and Mithun Kadambi were seized by the police while investigating an FIR filed by Bhartiya Janata Party leader Amit Malviya alleging reputation damage following the media house’s now retracted Tek Fog reports. The reports alleged that Malviya had special powers to order the take down of posts on Instagram. The FIR was filed under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:
- 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property);
- 468 (Forgery for the purpose of cheating);
- 469 (Forgery for the purpose of harming reputation);
- 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or record);
- 500 (Defamation);
- 120B (Criminal conspiracy);
- 34 (Acts done by several people to further a common intention).
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