Supreme Court orders NewsClick editor's release in UAPA case, terms arrest illegal

Prabir Purkayastha
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of NewsClick Prabir Purkayastha is brought to Delhi Police Special Cell in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023. Photo: AP/Dinesh Joshi

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared as illegal NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha's arrest by the Delhi police and his remand in a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967.

The apex court noted that a copy of the remand application was not provided to the appellant or his counsel before passing the remand order on October 4, 2023. Therefore, the bench of justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta declared the arrest and subsequent remand invalid in the eyes of the law.
The bench delivered the verdict after having concluded arguments on April 30. Purkayastha has been in custody since October 2, 2023. 

"There is no hesitation in the mind of the court to conclude that a copy of the remand application, in the purported exercise of the communication of the grounds of arrest in writing, was not provided to the accused-appellant or his counsel before the passing of the remand order dated October 4, 2023, which vitiates the arrest and the subsequent remand of the appellant,” the court pronounced... As a result, the appellant is entitled to a direction for release from custody by applying the ration of the judgment rendered by this court in Pankaj Bansal," the court added.

The court therefore ordered the release of Prabir Purkayasatha. However, the court ordered that the release would be subject to him furnishing the bail and bonds to the satisfaction of the trial court since the chargesheet had been filed. Purkayastha has been in custody since October 3 last year in a case over receiving Chinese funds to propagate anti-national propaganda. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared for Purkayastha and Additional Solicitor General SV Raju appeared for the Delhi Police.

Purkayastha approached the court challenging the legality of his arrest by contending that the grounds of arrest were not supplied to him in writing as mandated by the Supreme Court's judgment in Pankaj Bansal. The Delhi police contended that the grounds of arrest were contained in the remand application.

During the hearing, the top court noted that the remand order was recorded to have been passed at 6 am on October 4, 2023. However, a copy of the remand application was served on Purkayastha's lawyer much later. The day the verdict was reserved, April 30, the court questioned Delhi Police's "hot haste" in producing Purkayastha before the Magistrate at 6 am even without informing his lawyer. The bench also expressed surprise at the fact that the remand order was passed before the remand application was served on Purkayastha's lawyer.

The Delhi police argued that the time recorded in the remand order (6 am) was wrong and that the remand order was passed after serving the counsel of the accused. However, this argument did not impress the court which asserted that it would go only by the time recorded in the judicial order.

He had filed the petition assailing a decision of the Delhi High Court upholding his arrest by the Delhi Police. In the recent verdict, the Supreme Court set aside the High Court's judgment as well. Co-accused and NewsClick human resources head Amit Chakraborty had also approached the top court challenging his arrest, but he was allowed to withdraw his plea after he turned approver for the ED and was granted a pardon.

While the case was pending, the court had directed the constitution of a board by the All India Institute of Medical Science for Purkayastha's independent medical evaluation. This report was received by March 20.
(With LiveLaw, IANS inputs)

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