India

Supreme Court declares NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha’s arrest invalid, orders his release from custody

The top court further stated that bail surety requirements may be imposed by the trial court. A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said the Remand copy was not provided and this vitiated the arrest and the arrest was thus held as 'VOID'.

The Supreme Court has declared the arrest of NewsClick founder and Editor-in-chief Prabir Purkasyastha by Delhi Police as illegal and ordered his release, subject to furnishing of bonds to the trial court’s satisfaction, in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case, as the grounds of arrest was not supplied to him or his counsel before remand.

“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,” said Advocate Arshdeep Khurana, according to news agency ANI.

The top court further stated that bail surety requirements may be imposed by the trial court. A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said the Remand copy was not provided and this vitiated the arrest and the arrest was thus held as ‘VOID’.

The ruling from the top court was issued two weeks after the Supreme Court chastised Delhi Police for their “hot haste” in presenting the NewsClick editor to the judge, and asked why the police force had not notified Purkayastha’s attorney beforehand.

The top court bench asked, “Why didn’t you inform his lawyer in advance? You arrested him the previous day in the evening. You had an entire day to inform him. What was the hot haste to produce him at 6 am?”

This remark came after Purkayastha’s senior advocate Kapil Sibal argued before the court that his client was not provided with “grounds for arrest”.

According to the Delhi Police, NewsClick got illicit funds from China and sent it via the US. The police have filed an 8,000-page chargesheet with several accusations, including that the accused supported terrorists from Lashkar, incited violence in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh and Chand Bagh, and used reporters to pass out cash to farmers protesting outside the national capital.

“Prabir Purkayastha in furtherance of common conspiracy with Neville Roy Singham and others during the Covid-19 time had criticized noble efforts of Indian Government to control Covid-19 and also published his articles against the vaccine manufactured by the Indian pharmaceutical’s companies with the intention of causing disaffection against India,” the chargesheet said.

Prabir Purkayastha was charged by the Delhi Police with providing financial support to protestors opposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

“In the garb of protesting against CAA/NRC, Prabir Purkayastha was not only involved in malicious disinformation campaign using his PPK NewsClick but had actually been utilizing his employees/partners for the purpose of disbursing cash to the rioters, some of whom have already been arrested in a separate UAPA case and are presently running in judicial custody.”

Additionally, the NewsClick editor was charged with planning to post stories disparaging vaccinations made by Indian pharmaceutical firms and collaborating with Neville Roy Singham and others to undermine the Indian government’s attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19. Purkayastha was also accused of promoting Chinese propaganda based on alleged large sums of money the firm received from China to ‘disrupt the sovereignty of India’ and cause disaffection against the country, as per the FIR.

Amit Chakraborty, the HR head of NewsClick, and Purkayastha were detained in October of last year and placed under arrest in November. In January, Chakraborty joined the case as an approver.

A Delhi court acknowledged receipt of the chargesheet on April 29 and scheduled the case for charge arguments on May 31. The FIR alleged that Purkayastha conspired to undermine the democratic process during the 2019 Lok Sabha election with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS). As for NewsClick, it has stated that it would “contest these statements” in court and has referred to these accusations as “bogus, absurd, and concocted.”

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