Supreme Court grants interim protection from arrest to two journalists for an article on the Adani Group

On October 16, the crime branch, Ahmedabad issued notices of summons to the journalists associated with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project for their article.

ON Friday, the Supreme Court granted interim protection from arrest to two journalists, Ravi Nair and Anand Mangnale, for writing an article on Adani Group’s source of funds.

A division Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra, was hearing writ petitions filed by the journalists challenging the notice of summons issued by the crime branch, Ahmedabad on October 16.

The two reporters had co-authored the article detailing the source of funds used to purchase shares in the Adani conglomerate of companies on the web portal of an international media organisation, Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

The article followed the report released by investment research firm Hindenburg Research on the Adani Group on January 24 this year, which alleged that the demand for Adani’s shares was artificially inflated, creating a surge in its prices.

Today, senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the petitioners, informed the court that the crime branch had summoned the petitioner for a “preliminary inquiry” based on an application by Yogeshbhai Mafatlal Bhansali, an investor, for a “grossly malicious” and “false” article.

Jaising pointed out that the petitioners wrote to the crime branch asking for the application and the details of the provision of law under which the notice was issued as well as details of any first information report (FIR) filed against them.

Jaising told the court that in reply the crime branch had said that the petitioners would be provided with the complainant’s application on their appearance before the crime branch. The crime branch also informed the petitioners that “at this stage, the question of registering an FIR will not arise,” Jaising added.

Jaising argued that the crime branch of Ahmedabad lacks authority under law to summon the petitioners for a supposed preliminary inquiry. “Under what provision do I [the petitioners] stand in the character of an accused?” Jaising posed to the court.

According to Jaising, the notice lacks the authority of both Section 160 (police officer’s power to require the attendance of witnesses) and Section 41A (notice of appearance before police officer) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

Jaising contended that the notice lacks the authority of Section 160 of the CrPC since the petitioners reside in Delhi; hence, it is beyond the jurisdiction of the Gujarat police to issue such a notice.

In respect of Section 41A of the CrPC that deals with cognisable offences, Jaising argued that since, admittedly, no FIR has been registered against the petitioners, the notice lacks the legal backing of the provision.

Jaising argued that if a cognisable offence is disclosed against the petitioners, their rights under the CrPC, including the right against self-incrimination, are brought into operation.

It was Jaising contention that the summons requiring the petitioner’s presence are in the nature of “harassment and a prelude to a possible arrest”, and violate Article 21 of the Constitution.

On Jaising’s prayer of interim protection from arrest, the Bench directed no coercive steps to be taken against the petitioners.

The Bench issued notices to the respondents in respect of both the petitions.

The Leaflet