NewsClick case: FIR on allegations of FCRA violation

Debjit Mukherjee: Days after Delhi Police’s Special Cell arrested NewsClick founder-editor Prabir Purkayastha and HR head Amit Chakraborty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the CBI has registered an FIR against the news website and people including its director on allegations of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act violations. Searches are being conducted at Purkayastha’s office and house in Delhi on Wednesday.

“It was alleged that the private company had received unexplained export remittance of Rs 28.46 crore (approx) through four foreign entities in violation of FCRA provisions. It was further alleged that there was an unexplained receipt of foreign fund of Rs 9.59 crore (approx) by incorrect characterization of the fund as FDI. The director of the private company with his close associates had allegedly violated the provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010,” a CBI spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.

The spokesperson further said the FCRA provisions “prohibiting acceptance of foreign contribution by a company engaged in production and broadcast of audio-visual news or current affairs programmes through any electronic mode and by any correspondent or columnist or writer or owner of such company” were also violated.

On Tuesday, a Delhi court sent Purkayastha and Chakraborty to 10-day judicial custody. The duo were arrested last week by the Special Cell, which registered an FIR in August under several sections of the UAPA and the Indian Penal Code.

Among allegations detailed by the Special Cell’s FIR are attempts to show Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as being “not parts of India”; discrediting the Indian government’s fight against Covid; funding the farmers’ agitation; and “putting up a spirited defence of legal cases” against Chinese telecom companies such as Xiaomi and Vivo. Apart from Purkayastha, the FIR also names rights activist Gautam Navlakha, who is under house arrest in the Elgaar Parishad case, and US-based businessman Neville Roy Singham