10 Nov 2023 7:20 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Friday (10th November) granted interim protection from coercive action to two journalists from Financial Times, Benjamin Nicholas Brooke Parkin and Chloe Nina Cornish, who have been summoned by the Gujarat Police in relation to an article published in August against the Adani group.A bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra issued notice in the plea...
The Supreme Court on Friday (10th November) granted interim protection from coercive action to two journalists from Financial Times, Benjamin Nicholas Brooke Parkin and Chloe Nina Cornish, who have been summoned by the Gujarat Police in relation to an article published in August against the Adani group.
A bench of Justice BR Gavai and Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra issued notice in the plea filed by the journalists, and directed that no coercive steps be taken against them until the next date of hearing, ie, 1st December. The bench also made it clear that the petitioners must cooperate with the investigation.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Agarwal, appearing for the journalists pointed out that under similar circumstances, last week, the Top Court had granted to another set of journalists Ravi Nair and Anand Mangnale interim protection from being arrested by the Gujarat police over a similar article they wrote about the Adani-Hindenburg row.
Agarwal also pointed out the summons mentions an article published by the Financial Times titled 'Secret Paper Trail Reveals Hidden Adani Investors', however, the petitioners who have been summoned are not the ones who wrote the said report.
The plea before the Apex Court has been filed by FT's Delhi Correspondent Benjamin Nicholas Brooke Parkin and its Mumbai Correspondent, Chloe Nina Cornish, who have been summon by the Gujarat Police for a preliminary enquiry on a complaint filed by an investor in Adani group companies. The matter was mentioned by the counsel for the journalists yesterday, before the bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, who directed the matter to be listed today.
"This trend is now becoming very difficult, everyone is approaching the Supreme Court directly" Justice Gavai pointed out at the outset of the hearing today.
However, the Senior Counsel for the petitioners responded, "One person is in Delhi, one person in Bombay. Preliminary enquiry has been ordered based on some individual's complaint saying that the article is false. The Gujarat Police has then summoned them personally across the state borders, which your lordships have earlier said cannot be done. In this context, because your lordships are already seized of the matter, instead of going to both the Delhi High Court and Bombay High Court, that's the reason I am troubling this court" .
Agarwal informed the court that the summons was issued for a preliminary enquiry to be initiated by the crime branch Ahmedabad, on a complaint by an investor in the Adani group, against whom the article was written saying that there is obfuscation of financial data which has come into the public domain. The allegation pertains to the publication of 'malicious and false article' the counsel pointed out. 'At best, it could amount to a defamation complaint which is non cognizable in nature' he argued.
'Even if there was an FIR and a legitimate investigation underway, a notice of this nature has been interdicted by your lordships, where no investigation has commenced, no 154 information is available with the police, it is only a preliminary enquiry.. If they want certain information, we are absolutely obliged to provide it, but to have the person physically travel from place to place, under no authority of law is the issue raised here.." he added.
Last week, the same bench was hearing writ petitions filed by the journalists, challenging the summonses issued by the Ahmedabad crime branch asking them to appear in person for questioning with respect to the police’s preliminary probe into their critical article published on the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) website, in which it granted interim protection from arrest.
Case Title: BENJAMIN NICHOLAS BROOKE PARKIN Versus STATE OF GUJARAT, W.P.(Crl.) No. 574/2023
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