SC Orders Release of NewsClick Founder Prabir Purkayastha, Says His Arrest Invalid

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The order was issued by a bench of Justices B R Gavai and Sandeep Mehta

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared as “invalid in the eyes of law” the arrest of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha in a case under the anti-terror law, and directed that he be released from custody.

The apex court observed that a copy of the remand application in the “purported exercise of communication” of grounds of arrest in writing was not provided to Purkayastha or his counsel before the passing of the remand order dated October 4, 2023 which “vitiates” his arrest and subsequent remand, PTI reported.

“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.

“Accordingly, the arrest of the appellant (Purkayastha) followed by the remand order dated … and so also the impugned order passed by the High Court of Delhi are hereby declared to be invalid in the eyes of law and are quashed and set aside,” it said.

red its verdict on Purkayastha’s plea challenging the high court’s October 13 last year order dismissing his plea against arrest and subsequent police remand in the case.

He was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3 last year.

While pronouncing the judgement, the apex court said, “Though, we would have been persuaded to direct the release of the appellant without requiring him to furnish bonds of security but since the charge sheet 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.” The bench made it clear that none of the observations made by it shall be treated as a comment on the merits of the case.

After the verdict was pronounced, Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the Delhi Police, said since the arrest was declared to be void, it should not preclude the police from exercising the correct powers of arrest.

“We need not observe anything on that,” Justice Gavai said, adding, “Whatever you are permitted in law, you are permitted in law.” The high court had on October 13 last year dismissed the pleas of Purkayastha and NewsClick’s human resources department head Amit Chakravarty against their arrest and subsequent police remand.

Chakravarty had earlier withdrawn from the Supreme Court his petition against his arrest under the anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

A Delhi court had earlier allowed Chakravarty to turn an approver in the case lodged against the news portal under the UAPA over allegations that it received money to spread pro-China propaganda.

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

It also alleged that Purkayastha conspired with a group — People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) — to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

On April 30, a Delhi court had taken cognisance of a charge sheet filed against Purkayastha in the case.

The court had in January allowed Chakravarty to turn approver in the case.

The judge had pardoned Chakravarty, who was arrested in the case on October 3, 2023, on his application that claimed he had material information which he was willing to disclose to the Delhi Police, which is investigating the matter.

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