New Delhi, June 9: The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Friday said the CBI raids on NDTV co-founder Prannoy Roy’s houses was “reminiscent of the Emergency era” and a price for questioning the government.
Citing Supreme Court guidelines and the Banking Regulation Act, the PUCL said the CBI’s actions were “neither based on standard procedures and practices nor as per court mandated guidelines”.
“Under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, cognizance of the offences can only be taken in case of a complaint in writing by an officer of the Reserve Bank of India specially authorised to file such complaints.
“However, in this case no such complaint seems to have been lodged by an authorised officer of the RBI,” PUCL President Ravi Kiran Jain said, citing the CBI booking Roy for criminal conspiracy with unknown officials of ICICI Bank under the Banking Regulation Act.
“The CBI statement explains that the complaint is lodged by a private person said to be a shareholder of ICICI Bank and NDTV. In such a situation, the CBI is bound by higher standards of transparency, accountability and responsibility, to explain their actions.”
Observing that the CBI’s action was initiated without conducting a preliminary enquiry, the PUCL questioned why the agency has not raided the premises of the ICICI Bank or its employees to find out who were involved or responsible for the alleged crime.
“The People’s Union for Civil Liberties condemns the efforts of the present government to suppress the voice of its critics in the media through malicious prosecution on the one hand, and vicious labelling of ‘anti nationalism’ and “seditious” on the other,” he said.
It criticised the “motivated use of the enforcement and intelligence agencies” against the expressing of opposing opinions, saying it would lead only to breakdown and loss of faith in the Rule of Law.
“The raids is reminiscent of the Emergency era and a chilling reminder of the price to be paid for questioning the government and ruling elite,” the PUCL said while referring to India slipping three places, to 136th in the World Press Freedom Index.
The PUCL appealed to journalists, media houses and ordinary citizens not to remain quiet but to stand up and assert the importance of independence of the media and oppose any and all attempts to muzzle and silence dissent.
“At stake is the possibility of a new version of `Emergency’ versus protecting, promoting and deepening democracy,” it added.