HC junks Moitra's plea over leakage of "confidential info" in FEMA probe

The accountability of persons who are public figures is higher and they are subject to a higher level of public gaze and scrutiny, said the court.
TMC leader Mahua Moitra
TMC leader Mahua MoitraPhoto | PTI

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Friday dismissed a plea moved by TMC leader Mahua Moitra alleging leakage of "confidential information" from the Enforcement Directorate to the media in a probe against her under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

She approached the court, saying the press reports were violating her right to privacy and dignity and right to fair investigation.

In the order, Justice Subramonium Prasad said people are entitled to know about any news regarding public figures. The accountability of persons who are public figures towards society is higher and they are subject to a higher level of public gaze and scrutiny, the order added.

"...the newspaper cuttings do not deal with the private life of the petitioner but are only reportings regarding the investigation that is being conducted against the petitioner who is a public figure and same is unrelated to her private life."

The court added that there is nothing in the news articles that would have the effect of invading the privacy of the petitioner to impair the impartiality of the investigation or have the effect of prejudicing the trial of the petitioner in the event it is initiated.

"It is well settled that gag orders against the media can be passed only when it has the potential to prejudice any investigation or an ongoing trial," the court highlighted.

Dismissing Moitra's plea, the court said it is of the view that relief "need not be granted at this stage."

Earlier, senior advocate Rebecca John, representing the former Parliamentarian, had argued that Moitra was being "hounded", and information on issuance of summons to her by the agency was published by the media even before she received them.

As per the contentions of Moitra's plea, the ED has leaked "confidential, half-baked, speculative/unconfirmed information to the media in relation to the ongoing proceedings /investigation" and "thereby compromising the investigation."

"Such leakage of information has hampered the process of the investigation and also violated the rights of the petitioner such as privacy, dignity of the individual concerned as well as her right to fair investigation," it read.

It was reported in the media that the ED had issued summons to Moitra last week and asked her to appear before it on February 19 in a FEMA contravention case.

Moitra's statement will be recorded under the provisions of FEMA once she deposes, as per the reports.

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The New Indian Express