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  Opinion   Edit  16 May 2024  AA Edit | Lower courts need to keep a better vigil on citizen’s rights

AA Edit | Lower courts need to keep a better vigil on citizen’s rights

Published : May 17, 2024, 12:05 am IST
Updated : May 17, 2024, 12:05 am IST

SC invalidates arrest of Newsclick founder Prabir Purkayastha, exposes Govt's intimidation tactics

Prabir Purkayastha, founder editor of Newsclick and president of the Free Software Movement of India. (AA File Image)
 Prabir Purkayastha, founder editor of Newsclick and president of the Free Software Movement of India. (AA File Image)

The order of the Supreme Court holding the arrest and remand of founder editor of online portal Prabir Purkayastha “invalid in the eyes of law” and directing his release from jail not only restores his fundamental rights as a citizen but also exposes a ploy of the government at the Centre that it has been successfully employing to intimidate critics and incarcerate enemies.  

The court had, in a judgment in October, ruled that the investigating agency is bound to apprise a suspect upon his arrest of the grounds of his arrest as that is his only means to defend himself in a court of law. It insisted that its order in the Pankaj Bansal case, which underlined the right of a citizen guaranteed under Article 22(1) of the Constitution mandating that “no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice”, held good in this case as well. It rejected the argument of the Delhi police which carried out his arrest that the he was informed of the “reasons for arrest” and insisted that the “grounds of arrest” are specific to the case which alone can be of any help to the accused.

It is to the credit of the court that it rejected the police’s argument that the order in the Pankaj Bansal case, which was delivered on October 3, does not cover Mr Purkayastha’s arrest a day later. It is unbecoming on the part of the government and the investigating agencies to cling to technicalities, if they exist, to deny citizens their constitutional rights.   

Unfortunately, the same has been the pattern of the Central investigating agencies for some time now. They have been observed to be routinely abusing various laws, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), to arrest and incarcerate people who do not agree with the policies or functioning of the government. That’s because these laws impose very stringent, practically impossible conditions, on the defendant when it comes to obtaining bail. At the same time, the agencies, themselves, hardly follow the rigours of the law while conducting arrests.

It is also regrettable that the magistrate and special courts which deal with cases filed by such agencies do not look at the facts to see if the safeguards the lawmakers have welded into the laws have been available to the accused citizens or not. It may be remembered that the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court found twice that the NIA had failed to uphold the provisions of the UAPA when it prosecuted Prof. G.N. Saibaba in the Bhima Koregaon Naxal link case. Also notably, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s petition challenging his arrest is lying with the Supreme Court. In the instant case, it was the job of the additional sessions judge who remanded Mr Purkayastha in police custody to verify if his fundamental rights had been violated, instead of leaving it to the highest court of the land. The defendant was thus made to spend months behind bars. It is in the interest of the top courts, which have been burdened with cases piling up there, the citizen and the rule of law that the lower courts are alerted to keep a better vigil.



Tags: aa edit, newsclick, supreme court (sc)