NewsClick case: Delhi HC upholds judicial custody of NewsClick editor, HR manager

A single-judge bench upheld a trial court order remanding Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty to judicial custody and held that the ground of arrest was conveyed to them

Screengrab of the NewsClick portal home page
Screengrab of the NewsClick portal home page

Ashlin Mathew

Delhi High Court on Friday dismissed the petitions filed by NewsClick founder-editor Prabir Purkayastha and human resources head Amit Chakravarty, challenging Delhi Police's custody under the controversial anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The two are scheduled to be in judicial custody until 20 October.

Justice Tushar Rao Gadela rejected the plea saying there was no merit in the petitions challenging the trial court order remanding them to a week's police custody.

The court has not yet heard their plea seeking the quashing of the FIR registered against them, having said on 9 October that it would decide later if it should issue a notice and hear the prayer to quash the FIR under UAPA.

Purkayastha and Chakravarty were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on 3 October after a series of raids, based on allegations that NewsClick had received funds from China to conduct Chinese propaganda. They were produced in court on 10 October, since they had already completed five days in police custody.

During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Purkayastha, said both the arrest and remand were illegal because they had not been given the grounds of arrest. On 9 October, Sibal argued that NewsClick had not received a single penny from China and all the charges mentioned in the FIR are false.

On Friday, Delhi High Court refused to interfere with the arrest and subsequent police remand of Purkayastha and Chakravarty, as Justice Gedela said there was no "procedural infirmity" or violation of legal or constitutional provisions in relation to the arrest and the remand order is sustainable in law.

The judge said the grounds of arrest needed to be "informed" to the arrestee within 24 hours and furnishing of such grounds in writing was not mandated by the UAPA.

The court, however, said it would be “advisable” that the police henceforth, provide grounds of arrest in writing after redacting “sensitive material”.   “The petition, being devoid of any merit, along with pending applications, is dismissed,” said the court in its order passed on the petition by the news portal's founder.

“After examining the entire issue in the right perspective, it appears as of now that the grounds of arrest were indeed conveyed to the petitioner, as soon as may be, after the arrest and as such, there does not appear to be any procedural infirmity or violation of the provisions of the Section 43B of the UAPA or the Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India and as such, the arrest are in accordance with law,” the court further stated.

The court noted that offences under the UAPA directly impact the stability, integrity and sovereignty of the country and are of utmost importance since they would affect the national security and grounds of arrest only need to be informed.

“Keeping in view the law laid down by the Supreme Court in (the case of) Pankaj Bansal (supra), and also considering the stringent provisions of UAPA, it would be advisable that the respondent, henceforth, provide grounds of arrest in writing, though after redacting what in the opinion of the respondent would constitute 'sensitive material'. This too would obviate, as held by the Supreme Court, any such challenge to the arrest as made in the present case,” the court, however, added.

With inputs from PTI

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