The Delhi High Court has issued notice to the Income Tax (IT) Department on a plea filed by online news portal Newslaundry seeking an undertaking from the IT Department not to leak the data collected during Income Tax survey at its office last week. The court has directed the IT department to give an undertaking not to leak the data in the public domain.
The division bench of Justices Manmohan and Navin Chawla was hearing a petition filed by Newslaundry and its CEO Abhinandan Sekhri.
On September 10, the IT team conducted a survey at Newslaundry’s Office in South Delhi and it has been alleged that the IT team took away the personal phone and laptop of Abhinandan Sekhri and the tech contractors who accompanied them copied the data from the devices.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Dave appearing for Newslaundry argued that the “survey” was “ex-facie illegal, perverse and arbitrary”.
Dave submitted that during the survey of September 10, which continued from 1 in the afternoon until 12:43 in the night, the officials also impounded and seized a hard disk, Newslaundry accounts desktop, Sekhri’s MacBook and iPhone and a bunch of loose papers.
It was submitted that the petitioners now feared that the private data which is not relevant to the IT department or any other legal proceedings is not secure in the hands of the tax authorities and apprehensions exists that they may be misused or leaked illegally in the public domain.
The court concurring with petitioners said that the apprehension was well founded since the IT department did not give the hash value of the data after seizing it.
The court has asked the IT Department to file its response and listed the matter for next hearing on September 21.
The petitioner have submitted that the first notice under Section 131(1A) of IT Act was served on June 29, in which the petitioner was asked to visit the office of the IT Department’s deputy director. Thereafter a second notice under the same section was served on June 30, 2021.
Case Title: M/s Newslaundry Media Pvt Ltd v. Director General of Income Tax
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