‘No jurisdiction’, a dubious complainant: Why FT journalists moved SC against police notices

The apex court granted the two journalists interim protection yesterday.

WrittenBy:Sumedha Mittal
Date:
The Financial Times logo against a picture of the Supreme Court.
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When the Gujarat police served notices to two Financial Times journalists asking them to appear before it, the police allegedly did not mention under which provisions of law the notices were issued. The police also did not offer details of any FIR filed in the matter, or a copy of the initial complaint filed by an “investor”. 

These are allegations contained in the petition filed by the two journalists – Benjamin Nicholas Brooke Parkin and Chloe Nina Cornish – in the Supreme Court on November 6, after they were emailed the notices on October 28. Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted them interim protection against coercive action.

As Newslaundry reported yesterday, the police claim to be conducting a preliminary inquiry into a report published in August on the Adani Group’s “hidden investors”. FT had published the report on August 31 in collaboration with the OCCRP and The Guardian.

Curiously, neither Cornish nor Parkin even wrote the report in question. It was written by Dan McCrum and John Reed. Yet Cornish and Parkin were served almost identical notices on an inquiry into the “grossly malicious and false article” on the Adani Group. The notices directed the journalists to appear before the Crime Branch in Ahmedabad within seven days.

Parkin is based in Delhi as FT’s South Asia correspondent. Cornish is an FT correspondent based in Mumbai. Both are citizens of the United Kingdom. Cornish’s work visa expires in February next year and Parkin’s in June.

According to the petition, they wrote back to the police on November 2 asking for a copy of the complaint on which the inquiry was taking place, whether an FIR had been filed, and the provisions of law under which they were served notices. The petition alleged Cornish and Parkin never received a response.

Meanwhile, they moved the Supreme Court to quash the notices. 

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An ‘investor’ once barred by SEBI

The police said the inquiry was taking place on the basis of an application filed by an “investor” named Yogeshbhai Mafatlal Bhansali. 

Bhansali is also the complainant in connection with the notices issued by the Gujarat police to two OCCRP journalists who had written about the Adani-Hindenburg row. In that case as well, the Supreme Court had granted the two journalists – Ravi Nair and Anand Mangale – interim protection from arrest. 

In their Supreme Court petition, Cornish and Parkin cited a 2009 report in Economic Times that said Bhansali had been barred from trading by the Securities and Exchange Board of India for three years in a case of “alleged price rigging”.

The petition also pointed out that the report cited in the police’s notices had been published by OCCRP, not Financial Times. FT had “published its own, separate articles”, the petition said. And Cornish and Parkin were not the authors of that report.

Since the notices were not served under a provision of law, the petition claimed they did not comply with mandatory provisions of the CrPC. Without this, “the police agency has no jurisdiction to summon persons”. 

The petition argued that the Gujarat police had “illegally and without jurisdiction” issued the notices, since Cornish and Parkin did not “reside within the territorial jurisdiction of the Crime Branch police station in Ahmedabad”.

Newslaundry emailed questionnaires to the official spokespersons of Financial Times and the Gujarat police. This report will be updated if they respond.

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