Supreme Court quashes arrest, remand of Prabir Purkayastha of NewsClick, orders his release

    Supreme Court quashes arrest, remand of Prabir Purkayastha of NewsClick, orders his release

    Prabir Purkayastha and NewsClick

    Prabir Purkayastha and NewsClick 

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside the arrest and remand of Prabir Purkayastha, the chief editor of online news portal NewsClick, in connection with a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). [Prabir Purkayastha v. State of NCT of Delhi].

    A Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta ordered that Purkayastha be released subject to him furnishing surety and bail bond.

    The Court passed the order after noting that a copy of the remand application was not provided to Purkayastha thereby violating principles of natural justice.

    “Copy of the remand application was not provided to the appellant. This vitiates the arrest of the appellant following Pankaj Bansal case,” the order said.

    The Court further said that since a chargesheet has been filed in the case, Purkayustha can be released only on furnishing surety and bail bond. Otherwise, he could have been released without surety, the Court stated.

    “Though we would have released him without surety, but since chargesheet has been filed, we release him with surety and bail bond,” the Court stated reading out the operative part of the order.

    Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta

    The verdict came on the plea by Purkayastha challenging his arrest and remand by the Delhi Police in the case.

    The Supreme Court had on April 30 reserved its judgment in the matter.

    The Court had during hearings raised questions on how the remand hearing was conducted without informing Purkayastha’s lawyer in advance and, in effect, without an audience.

    The Court had orally observed then that the remand order was clearly passed (around 6 AM) before Purkayastha or his counsel were informed as to why he was arrested.

    The Court had also grilled the counsel for the Delhi police as to why no advance notice was given to Purkayastha’s lawyer about his remand.

    Purkayastha was booked under the UAPA and arrested on October 3, 2023, following a series of raids conducted in the wake of allegations made in a New York Times article that NewsClick was being paid to boost Chinese propaganda.

    NewsClick HR head Amit Chakraborty was also arrested by the police in the same case.

    Purkayastha moved the Supreme Court challenging his arrest and remand after the Delhi High Court upheld the trial court’s decision to remand him to police custody.

    As per the First Information Report (FIR), Purkayastha is alleged to have illegally received crores of rupees in foreign funds and used the same with an intention to “disrupt the sovereignty, unity and security of India.”

    The FIR claimed that substantial foreign funds were illegally funnelled into India by both Indian and foreign entities.

    Following their arrest, Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakraborty initially moved the Delhi High Court challenging their arrest, remand and the FIR lodged against them under the UAPA.

    They argued that their arrest and remand were illegal since they were not supplied with the grounds of arrest, in violation of the Supreme Court judgment in Pankaj Bansal v. Union of India & Ors (M3M case).

    However, the High Court rejected the said argument, holding that the Pankal Bansal judgment is not squarely applicable to arrests made under the UAPA. This led to the appeal before the apex court.

    Chakraborty since turned an approver for the prosecution after which he was released by the Delhi High Court. Thus, he withdrew his plea before Supreme Court against the arrest.

    Meanwhile, the Delhi Police recently filed its chargesheet against Purkayastha and NewsClick. A Delhi court took cognisance of the chargesheet and will hear the matter on May 31 for framing of charges.

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