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Delhi HC seeks ED response on journalist Rajeev Sharma's bail plea

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Delhi HC seeks ED response on journalist Rajeev Sharmas bail plea
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Freelance journalist Rajeev Sharma, Image credit: Twitter

Justice Mukta Gupta of the Delhi High Court on Thursday sought the response of the Enforcement Directorate on the bail plea of journalist Rajeev Sharma. Rajeev, a Delhi-based freelance journalist, was arrested on July 1 in connection with a money-laundering probe under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). He stands accused of leaking and supplying sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers. The court instructed the ED to file its status report within two weeks and clarify the journalist's connection with the alleged illegal financial transactions.

"Please tell your officers to justify the connection with the petitioner. If he is in receipt of money from shell companies, it is an illegal offence. But there has to be admissible evidence to connect him," the judge told the ED's counsel.

ED counsel Zoheb Hussain alleged that Sharma received cash from a shell company run by the Chinese. The investigation is ongoing, he added.

"Investigation into further proceeds of crime is going on. ₹ 48 lakh is what they have found till date," he said.

Sharma's lawyer Mohit Mathur submitted that the money laundering case rises out of a police case under the Official Secrets Act. Sharma was charged with passing on information about the Indian Army's deployment and country's border strategy to Chinese Intelligence officers and arrested on September 14. However, he was released on default bail in December.

"I'm given default bail by the high court in December 2020. In February 2021, ECIR is registered. I join the proceedings. On July 1, I am called and arrested. Nothing is forthcoming. It is becoming a trend that anybody says anything..," he said. Furthermore, Sharma has provided all details on financial transactions and bank accounts to the agency, he added.

"An offence under the Official Secrets Act is not a scheduled offence. They are roping me in on the basis of Section 120B (conspiracy)," Mathur added.

Sharma was denied bail on June 17 by a sessions court. The court said that he would definitely try to wipe off any footprints and cover-up traces if released on bail.

"Sharma received lakhs of rupees on multiple occasions, invariably in cash, from dubious sources" and failed to furnish any palpable explanation regarding the receipt of the said money, the court said.

"It is further intriguing to note that the annual income of the accused was reported to be barely ₹ 8.6 lakh and yet he is financing his son's education abroad, enjoying multiple foreign trips and is even lending lakhs of rupees to his friends and acquaintances for investment purposes," the judge noted.

The agency told the sessions court that Sharma had supplied confidential and sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers in exchange for remuneration, compromising India's security and national interests.

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TAGS:Rajeev Sharma Delhi HC Enforcement Directorate 
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