A Delhi court has ordered registration of an FIR on a criminal complaint filed by Congress Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor, accusing news channel Republic TV and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami of stealing confidential documents pertaining to the probe into the death of Tharoor's wife Sunanda Pushkar, and alleged hacking of his e-mail account.
"… In view of allegations levelled by complainant (Tharoor) and material produced on record in the form of the RTI replies and other material, matter discloses commission of cognizable offence… In view of this court, the matter requires investigation by police as it is not clear how said material came in the possession of proposed accused persons (the channel, Goswami and a journalist)," said Metropolitan Magistrate Dharmender Singh.
It further said that a "number of persons are to be examined… In these circumstances, the Station House Officer (SHO) concerned is directed to register FIR in this matter and investigate the same as per law."
The magistrate listed the matter for April 4, by when police have to file their compliance report.
Senior advocate Vikas Pahwa and advocate Gaurav Gupta, appearing for Tharoor, accused Goswami - who is also the managing director and co-founder of the channel - of gaining illegal access to confidential documents that were part of police probe records, and hacking into Tharoor’s e-mail account to access personal e-mails, which were then broadcast on news channel to increase viewership.
The complaint further alleged that the channel broadcast certain documents which were stated to be related to the investigation into Pushkar's death.
"Such documents are copy of internal file notings of Delhi Police, copy of statement of complainant given to Delhi Police, copy of statement of complainant's aide Mr Narain Singh, pictures of deceased which were taken during autopsy," Tharoor's counsel argued.
Pointing out that responses by Delhi Police to RTI queries showed that the documents were accessed "illegally", the counsel informed the court that "it is not permissible to share information/documents related to any investigation to any public member/media till the case is pending investigation".
Tharoor said the RTI response clearly shows that the accused accessed the documents illegally but the police did not take any action on his complaint, forcing him to move court.
The court, in its four-page order, noted that a report was sought from the SHO concerned. "Same is perused. As per said report, vigilance inquiry is being conducted regarding present issue," it noted.
The counsel also informed the court about a civil suit filed by Tharoor before the Delhi High Court and a criminal complaint before the trial court, seeking damages from Goswami and his channel for allegedly making malicious and defamatory remarks against him.
Pushkar was found dead in a luxury hotel in the capital on January 17, 2014.
Delhi Police have filed a chargesheet in the case against Tharoor, accusing him of abetting his wife’s suicide.
The trial court also restrained police from sharing the chargesheet with any third person, including the media.