In a significant development on December 30, Delhi Police officials visited the residence of activist Gautam Navlakha in Navi Mumbai for questioning regarding the ongoing investigation into the NewsClick foreign funding case. The interrogation unfolded against the backdrop of allegations that the media portal had engaged in anti-India activities and received funds from China.
Gautam Navlakha, who is currently under house arrest following his bail in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case on December 19, faced inquiries regarding his association with NewsClick’s founder and Editor-in-Chief, Prabir Purkayastha. The police also delved into Navlakha’s shareholding in PPK NewsClick Studio Pvt Ltd, the company behind NewsClick. The rigorous three-hour interrogation, led by an officer at the assistant commissioner of police level, sought to unravel the intricate ties between Navlakha and the embattled media outlet.
The Delhi Police’s visit follows the registration of an FIR in August by the special cell under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against NewsClick, Prabir Purkayastha, and others. The FIR alleged substantial funding from China with the purported aim of disrupting India’s sovereignty and fostering disaffection against the country. Purkayastha and the head of the human resources department, Amit Chakravarty, were arrested on October 3, 2023, and are currently in judicial custody.
The FIR further claimed that the Chinese funds were disbursed to various individuals, including Gautam Navlakha and associates such as activists Teesta Seetalvad, Javed Anand, and journalists Urmilesh, Aratrika Halder, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, and Abhisar Sharma. Additionally, Purkayastha was accused of conspiring with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) to sabotage the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Gautam Navlakha’s connection with Prabir Purkayastha dates back to 1991, and he has been a shareholder in NewsClick since its establishment in 2018. Notably, Navlakha is one of the 15 accused in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon violence case, initiated based on allegations that Maoist-linked individuals incited violence during the Elgar Parishad event in 2017.
In response to the police interrogation, Sahba Hussain, partner of Gautam Navlakha, stated during a media interaction, “I was not with him at the time, as I am out presently. I hence do not have the gist of what has happened as yet. I will get to know only once I speak to him. But I understand the special cell team was there for over three hours to investigate the Newsclick issue.”
Earlier this week, Amit Chakravarty, HR head of news portal NewsClick, moved an application before the court concerned, saying that he wants to become an approver in the case and is ready to give his statement under 164 Crpc before Magistrate in the case registered under the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, following allegations that News Portal NewsClick received huge money for pro-China propaganda.
Patiala House Court of Delhi granted the Delhi Police Special Cell a further two months to complete the investigation.
On December 19, the police moved an application in Patiala House Court seeking an extension of time to complete the investigation in the case. The police had sought three more months to complete the investigation into the matter.