Mumbai: NIA had sought contempt proceedings against Caravan for article on Arsenal report

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had, during hearings on 83-year-old Jesuit Priest Stan Swamy’s bail application, sought that the court initiate contempt proceedings against Caravan magazine’s publishers and its authors for an article on the US firm Arsenal Consulting’s report which had found that incriminating evidence had been planted through a malware in Bhima-Koregaon accused Rona Wilson’s computer.

The defence had cited the magazine’s report titled ‘Bhima Koregaon case: Prison Rights Activist Rona Wilson’s hard disk contained malware that allowed remote access’ published on March 12, 2020, to dispute the electronic evidence produced by the NIA against Swamy.

The NIA had objected to the accusations made by Caravan in its article and called it “a direct attack on the administration of the criminal justice system”. The NIA had further said that the Caravan, without knowing the ground realities in the case, has made an “imputation” against the investigating agency. It said further that this had been done by the magazine to “mislead the general public”, “discredit” the NIA and “hamper investigation”.

Special judge Dinesh E. Kothalikar said in his order rejecting Swamy’s bail plea that he found substance in the objection raised by the NIA. The court said, “It is well known that the present proceeding is subjudice. Therefore any comments made as to the evidence to be placed before the court would amount to interference in the administration of justice” Judge Kothalikar added that, “In fact, such an act is required to be deprecated”. Regarding the NIA’s prayer seeking contempt proceedings, the court said it would “refrain” from such action at this “initial stage”. It also called the material “extraneous” which need not be considered when considering Swamy’s bail application.

When contacted, Executive Editor, Caravan, Vinod Jose, said that it is ridiculous for the NIA to expect journalists not to publish legitimate stories. “Similar articles were published by the Washington Post and the world over about the malware being planted. Why is the NIA afraid of fair reporting,” he asked.

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