The Delhi High Court, on Friday, issued notice to the Income Tax department based on a plea filed by Newslaundry seeking protection of its personal data that was seized by the authorities during a raid conducted at its office on September 10, Bar and Bench reported.
On September 10, Income Tax officials conducted a raid under section 133 A of the Income Tax Act at Newslaundry’s registered office. Personal devices of all the employees, present during the raid were temporarily seized.
Seeking preservation of the private data present on the devices, Abhinandan Sekhri, the CEO of Newslaundry, had moved the High Court and submitted that his personal phone and his Mac Book were also seized. He mentioned that the data downloaded by the Income Tax department was 300GB which also included Sekhri’s personal data, leading to a breach of his right to privacy.
In the plea, Sekhri argued that he is fearful of leakage of his personal data to the media and sought directions from the court to the Income Tax authorities to not leak the data.
Citing that Section 133A of the Income Tax Act does not give authorities the power to seize the personal data of an individual, Sekhri submitted that the authorities have acted beyond the scope of the provision.
The representative of the Director-General of Income Tax submitted that the data will be used in accordance with law and that there is no reason for them to be afraid of any leakage of personal data. He stated that the plea is merely based on a bald apprehension that their data will be leaked because they are journalists.
To which the court remarked: “But we have seen it in news, several times data has been leaked.”
In a statement released by Sekhri on September 11, he said the raids related to alleged tax evasion was an attack on their rights to privacy and freedom of speech. They said that the move was an attempt to stifle critical journalism.
Sekhri added in the statement that he was not allowed to speak to his lawyer throughout the duration of the investigation, which was carried out by the Enforcement Directorate and the Economic Offences Wing.
The publication further stated that while they cooperated with the officials and provided them with the required documents, the government representatives made further copies of the data available on Sekhri’s devices. However, no “signed hash value” was provided to them.
He also mentioned that a raid was conducted on Newslaundry in June as well.
Along with Newslaundry, a similar raid was conducted at the office of Newsclick the same day as well.