Delhi court orders release of journalists’ devices, citing press freedom impact of year-long seizure News
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Delhi court orders release of journalists’ devices, citing press freedom impact of year-long seizure

A Delhi Sessions Court observed on Wednesday that continuous seizure of editors’ and journalists’ electronic devices not only causes ‘undue hardship’ to them but “impinges upon their fundamental right of freedom of profession and speech,” according to The Wire.  This comes in light of the Delhi Police’s seizure of The Wire’s electronic devices, which had taken place earlier owing to a police report lodged against the news portal, following a complaint by Amit Malviya, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) social media chief, who alleged that The Wire’s stories were incorrect and defamatory.

The report (FIR), was registered under Indian Penal Code sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery with the purpose of cheating), 469 (forgery for harming reputation), 471 (using forged documents), 500 (defamation), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

In September, a Delhi magistrate permitted the return of the devices, stressing that the investigating officer couldn’t keep them indefinitely based on uncertain expectations of future discoveries. The magistrate also instructed the editors to ensure the secure preservation of the devices, protecting them from any unauthorized handling. 

The Delhi police contested the magistrate’s order on September 23 in the Sessions Court. The Sessions Court deemed the petition ‘not maintainable,’ explaining that the magistrate’s order was purely interim and non-revisable. The Sessions Court found no fault with the magistrate’s decision, noting that it safeguarded both the journalists’ interests and the security of their devices, highlighting the fact that the press is the fourth pillar of democracy.

The court’s decision aligns closely with a comprehensive action carried out by the Delhi Police earlier this month, which involved raids at the homes and workplaces of journalists. About 46 journalists were impacted, including freelancers and contributors.