The Delhi Police in its First Information Report (FIR) against news portal NewsClick linked the organisation with "illegally infusing foreign funds" through Chinese telecom companies as part of a "larger criminal conspiracy" to "disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India."
The FIR, accessed by The Quint, claimed that telecom companies like Xiaomi and Vivo set up shell companies, allegedly in violation of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).
Filed by the Delhi Police's Special Cell on 17 August, the FIR named NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha, activist and accused in the Bhima Koregaon case Gautam Navlakha, and US-based tech mogul Neville Roy Singham, for their alleged conspiracy of "peddling a narrative against India."
It was this FIR that led to the raids at the residences of over 40 journalists associated with NewsClick, and the subsequent arrest of Purkayastha and the news portal's Human Resources (HR) Head Amit Chakravarty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) on 3 October.
The FIR invoked multiple sections 13 (unlawful activities), 16 (terrorism), 17 (raising funds for terrorism), 18 (punishment for conspiracy), and 22 (Punishment for offences by companies, societies or trusts) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, besides sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Meanwhile, NewsClick moved the Delhi High Court on Friday, 6 October to quash the case filed against it under the UAPA, Bar and Bench reported. The matter has been adjourned to Monday.
'Large Amount of Funds Routed From China'
The FIR was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by an Inspector Praveen of the Special Cell police station.
This was preceded by a New York Times (NYT) report published in August 2023 which alleged that the news portal was funded by businessman Singham for "pushing Chinese propaganda."
In its FIR, the Special Cell has alleged that the portal had been receiving funds since 2018 from three different entities — two linked to Singham and a third to his wife’s NGO.
The document claimed "foreign funds (were) fraudulently infused by Neville Roy Singham, an active member of the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China."
After outlining its claims against Purkayastha, NewsClick and Singham, the Delhi police said that a “large amount” of Chinese funding was used to publish “paid news,” which criticised the policies of the Indian government and promoted the policies of the Chinese.
"In furtherance of this conspiracy to disrupt sovereignty of India and to cause disaffection against India, large amount of funds were routed from China in circuitous and camouflaged manner and paid news were intentionally peddled criticising domestic policies, development projects of India and promoting , projecting and defending policies and programmes of Chinese government."
Lawyer Named 'Key Person' in FIR
Along with Purkayastha, Singham, writer-editor Geeta Hariharan, the FIR also names one Gautam Bhatia as a "key person" in creating a Legal Community Network in India to "campaign for and put up a spirited defense of legal cases against the aforementioned (Xiaomi, Vivo) Chinese Telecom Companies in return for benefits by these Chinese Companies."
"That Prabir Purkayastha, Nevile Roy Singham, Gautam Navlakha, and their known and unknown associates have been involved in continuous unlawful activities which include undermining India's unity, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. That aforementioned accused have conspired to commit unlawful activities and terrorist acts by aiding and abetting disruption of supplies and services essential for life of community and continued damage and destruction of property through illegal means."Delhi Police FIR
2019 Elections, Farmers' Protest, COVID-19 Find Mentions in FIR
As specified in their remand request to the Patiala House Court on 4 October, the Delhi Police said that it received "secret inputs" that Purkayastha, Singham, and the employees of his Shanghai-based company (StarStream) "exchanged mails that exposed their intent to show Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as not part of India."
The Delhi Police also claimed it learned that Purkayastha allegedly conspired with a group – People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) – to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The FIR further claimed that one of the objectives of the alleged accused was to "promote and support each other for the purpose of backing, supporting, and funding farmers’ agitation with the objective of causing a huge loss of several hundred crores of the Indian economy and creating internal law and order problems in India."
The police also claimed that the accused "propagated false narratives to discredit the efforts of the Indian government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic."
Gautam Navlakha's Alleged Links to NewsClick
According to the police, the "illegal" foreign funds received by Purkayastha were distributed to Bhima Koregaon accused Gautam Navlakha, activist Teesta Setalvad, journalists Urmilesh, Pranjoy Guha Thakurta, and Abhisar Sharma.
Navlakha, who has been a shareholder in NewsClick since 2018 "remained involved in anti-Indian and unlawful activities such as actively supporting banned Naxal organisations and having anti-national nexus with Gulam Nabi Fai who is an agent of ISI of Pakistan," the FIR stated.
The remand also mentioned that Navlakha has been a shareholder in NewsClick since 2018, and has been associated with Purkayastha since 1991.
"By inciting disaffection among the people especially farmers towards the democratically elected government of India they have been creating divisions and disharmony among different group/classes of people as a part of a larger criminal conspiracy having international ramifications," the FIR stated.