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  India   All India  16 May 2024  SC Invalidates Newsclick Editor’s Arrest

SC Invalidates Newsclick Editor’s Arrest

THE ASIAN AGE. | RAKESH K. SINGH
Published : May 16, 2024, 1:25 am IST
Updated : May 16, 2024, 1:25 am IST

Pukayastha was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi police on October 3 last year in the case under the UAPA Act

Supreme Court (PTI)
 Supreme Court (PTI)

 

NEW DELHI: Invalidating Newsclick founder and editor Prabir Purakayastha's arrest in a terror case, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered his release. The apex court held that the Delhi police had failed to provide Mr Purakayastha with the grounds of his arrest while taking him into custody.

In its judgement, the top court noted that a copy of the remand application in the "purported exercise of communication" of grounds of arrest in writing was not provided to Mr Purkayastha or his counsel before the passing of the order dated October 4, last year, which "vitiates" his arrest and subsequent remand.

"As a result, the appellant is entitled to a direction for release from custody by applying the ratio of the judgement rendered by this court in the case of Pankaj Bansal,” a bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said, adding, "Accordingly, the arrest of the appellant (Mr Purkayastha) followed by the remand order dated… and also the impugned order passed by the Delhi high court are hereby declared to be invalid in the eyes of law and are quashed and set aside."

The bench said a copy of the written grounds of arrest has to be furnished to the arrested person as a "matter of course and without exception at the earliest".

The apex court verdict came in response to Mr Purkayastha's plea challenging the Delhi high court's October 13, last year, order dismissing his petition against arrest and subsequent police remand in the case.

 Mr Pukayastha was arrested by the special cell of the Delhi police on October 3 last year in the case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against the news portal over allegations that it received money to spread pro-China propaganda.

In its judgement, the top court said: "Though we would have been persuaded to direct the release of the appellant without requiring him to furnish bonds of security, since the chargesheet has been filed, we feel it appropriate to direct that the appellant shall be released from custody on furnishing bail bonds to the satisfaction of the trial court.”

Later in the day, a Delhi court directed Mr Purkayastha to not comment on the merits of the case or tamper with the evidence.

In compliance with the apex court, additional sessions judge Hardeep Kaur imposed certain conditions while issuing the release order for Mr Purkayastha. The ASJ directed the accused to submit a personal bond of `1 lakh and two sureties of like amount in the case lodged under the UAPA.

The judge also directed Mr Purkayastha not to contact any witnesses or approver Amit Chakravarty in the case.

The accused has been directed not to leave the country without the prior permission of the court.

The apex court, however, made it clear that none of its observations should be treated as a comment on the merits of the case. Additional solicitor-general S.V. Raju, appearing for the Delhi police, said since the arrest was declared void, it should not preclude the police from exercising the correct powers of arrest.

"We need not observe anything on that. Whatever you are permitted in law, you are permitted in law," Justice Gavai said.

On October 13, last year, the Delhi high court had dismissed the pleas of Mr Purkayastha and NewsClick's human resources department head (Mr Chakravarty) against their arrest and subsequent police remand.

Mr Chakravarty had earlier withdrawn his petition against his arrest in the case. A Delhi court had in January allowed him to turn an approver in the case.

According to the FIR, the news portal allegedly received a huge amount of funds from China to "disrupt the sovereignty of India" and cause disaffection against the country.

The FIR also alleged that Mr Purkayastha conspired with a group -- People's Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) -- to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 parliamentary polls.

On April 30, a Delhi court took cognisance of a chargesheet filed against Mr Purkayastha in the case.

Tags: prabir purkayastha, supreme court of india, newsclick
Location: India, Delhi