Bail Plea of Prabir Purkayastha

SC Calls Newsclick Founder’s Arrest Void, Orders Release

Bail Plea of Prabir Purkayastha

The Supreme Court on Wednesday declared invalid the arrest and subsequent remand of NewsClick founder and Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha by the Delhi police in connection with a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta ordered the release of NewsClick founders in the case.

The apex court ordered that Purkayastha be released, subject to him furnishing surety and bail bond.

The bench, in its verdict, took into note that a copy of the remand application and grounds of arrest were not provided to Purkayastha, which violated principles of natural justice.

Pronouncing the verdict, the top court said, “A copy of the remand application was not provided to the appellant. This vitiates the arrest of the appellant… Though we would have released him without surety, since the chargesheet has been filed, we release him with surety and a bail bond.”

Purkayastha has been in custody since October 2, 2023.

He has been lodged in Tihar jail under anti-terror law and has applied in a pending case seeking release on medical grounds.

Purkayastha had approached the apex court, challenging his arrest under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) over alleged Chinese funding to promote anti-national propaganda.

He challenged the Delhi High Court’s October 13, 2023, order upholding the trial court order remanding him to police custody. He has since been remanded to judicial custody.

Earlier, NewsClick’s human resources department head, Amit Chakravarty, had withdrawn from the Supreme Court his petition against his arrest.

A Delhi court had allowed Chakravarty to turn an approver in the case lodged against the news portal.

Purkayastha and Chakraborty were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3 after it searched 30 locations connected with the online news portal and its journalists in a case filed under the UAPA following allegations that it received money for pro-China propaganda.

They subsequently moved the High Court to challenge the arrest as well as the seven-day police custody and sought immediate release as interim relief.

The High Court had rejected their pleas and said it was of the view that “the fact that serious offences affecting stability, integrity, sovereignty and national security have been alleged against the petitioner, this Court is not inclined to pass any favourable orders.”

According to the FIR, a large amount of funding to the news portal allegedly came from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.

The probe agency 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.

Speaking on the Supreme Court order, Advocate Arshdeep Khurana told ANI, “The Supreme Court has held the arrest and the remand proceedings to be illegal and has directed the release of Purkayastha. We have been directed to furnish the bail bond before the trial court. This is a major and big relief because we have been maintaining from the beginning that the entire proceedings against him were illegal and the manner of arrest was illegal which has now been upheld by the Supreme Court.” (ANI)

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