Raids on Wire Editors & Seizure of Electronic Devices Failed to Follow Law & Procedure: PUCL

Raids on Wire Editors & Seizure of Electronic Devices Failed to Follow Law & Procedure: PUCL

The Wire’s editor, Siddharth Vardarajan, told Sabrangindia that although they objected to seizing these devices without providing a hash value (i.e. a numerical value that uniquely identifies data stored in any device at any given time), the police did not relent.

Image: ANI

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) in a statement issued on 1 November strongly condemned the raids on the residences and offices of the editors of The Wire news portal in New Delhi and Mumbai on 31 October and November, 1st. 2022 as well as the mistreatment of lawyer, Mr. Shadan Farasat and other Wire staff. The raids followed a First Information Report (FIR) filed in New Delhi based on a complaint filed by the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) National Information and Technology Department, Amit Malviya. The allegations related to cheating, forgery, defamation and criminal association.

It is pertinent to note that a week ago, on October 23, 2022 itself, The Wire officially retracted the story (which is the basis of Amit Malviya’s complaint) after an internal review revealed discrepancies. The retraction was the subject of a prominent article in the Wire under the title “The Wire Retracts Its Meta Stories”. The Wire very clearly, frankly and unambiguously explained the reason for the retraction saying: “Given the discrepancies that have been brought to our attention via our review thus far, The Wire will also be undertaking a thorough review of the reports. precedents made by the technical team involved in our Meta Hedging”.

PUCL’s statement further states that

“What is shocking is that despite the unambiguous retraction and accompanying public candor, the Delhi Police used the complaint filed by Mr Malviya as an opportunity to register a more sinister FIR involving cheating , forgery and criminal conspiracy as a cover to target The Wire and its staff.

“Based on these bogus charges, the Delhi Criminal Police arbitrarily carried out search and seizure operations at the homes of founding editors of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu and Sidharth Bhatia, as well as Deputy Editor, Jahnavi Sen and product- cum-entrepreneur, Mithun Kidambi, relying on a notification under section 91 of the 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure. The search of the latter’s home took place after midnight around 2 a.m. on November 1, 2022.

“Any investigation or investigation that the Delhi Police wished to launch could have been carried out by summoning the editors of the Wire for an investigation with the necessary evidence from their articles. The fact that the Delhi Police decided to dramatically raid the residence of Siddharth Varadarajan, MK Venu and others shows that their intention was not to pursue an investigation but to conduct a witch hunt by putting on a show for the search. What makes the actions of the police suspicious is that they carried out the search and seizure when they were fully aware of the public recantation of the stories that formed the basis of the criminal complaint, which makes the police action suspicious. The intention was clearly to intimidate the editors of the Wire and to scare other journalists of their fate if they dared to challenge the dominant interests.

“According to media reports, a total of 16 devices were seized from The Wire’s office. Two phones, a tablet and a laptop from Varadarajan, a phone and laptop each from Venu, Bhatia, Sen and Kidambi, and two hard drives from the accounting department’s computers were among the devices seized. A journalist’s phone and the computer he was working on at the Wire office were also taken to Delhi. Along with these devices, the Delhi police also asked the four publishers and Kidambi to remove passcodes from their phones and laptops, and provide passwords to their official and personal email accounts. Three staff members were asked to provide passwords for their official email accounts, while another staff member was asked to give passwords to official and personal email accounts. ”

Wire editor Siddharth Vardarajan said Sarangindia that they had objected to capturing these devices without providing a hash value (i.e. a numerical value that uniquely identifies the data stored in any device at any given time. Thread submitted objections to this violation of procedure in writing to the Delhi Police Contingent and the Investigator (IO).

Meanwhile, the PUCL statement noted that the crime branch did not follow the required procedure as it removed devices from the news portal office in New Delhi and from the homes of those raided without providing any value. hash, i.e. the numerical value that uniquely identifies the deposited data. in an electronic device at any given time. There are legitimate concerns that the lack of a hash value leaves the door open for planting material on digital devices.

“The widespread access thus obtained by the Crime Branch to information on seized devices also raises serious privacy concerns and violates Section 20(3) and Section 21 of the Indian Constitution. Concerns have been repeatedly expressed about the arbitrary exercise of powers of search and seizure by law enforcement authorities of digital devices, especially since the existing legal provisions are very insufficient and do not provide any procedural safeguards for this purpose. . The Supreme Court recently issued an opinion in motions filed before it by academics and journalist bodies for guidelines on the seizure of digital devices and the cases are currently pending. Forcing an accused to reveal the password to their electronic devices violates the right to self-incrimination. A special CBI tribunal in Delhi recently came to this conclusion based on an interpretation of the scope of the Supreme Court’s judgment in `Selvi v. state of karnataka‘.

“The PUCL strongly condemned this targeting of The Wire and the arbitrary raids and search and seizure operations carried out by the Crime Branch as nothing but another brazen attempt to intimidate and silence independent media. in the performance of their professional roles. It should be noted that the current ruling dispensation has targeted Wire, and in particular the founding editors, Siddharth Varadarajan and MK Venu, because Wire has been at the forefront of journalism in investigation that repeatedly spoke truth to power and sought to hold the executive to account.

“It is this important work done by The Wire that is the real reason for the raids. At PUCL, we support The Wire and condemn what is a blatant attempt to stifle the voices of independent media. PUCL demands that Delhi police end this persecution under the guise of prosecution, drop all charges and return electronic devices seized in the raids to those from whom they were seized.


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