NewsClick case: SC adjourns plea against arrests until after Diwali break

During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal highlighted an application for interim medical relief owing to Purkayastha's advanced age

NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha (pictured) was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (photo: DW)
NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha (pictured) was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (photo: DW)

Ashlin Mathew

The Supreme Court has postponed the hearing of the petitions filed by the NewsClick founder-editor Prabir Purkayastha and human resources head Amit Chakravarty challenging their arrest until after the Diwali break.

A bench of Justices BR Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra was hearing a special leave petition filed by them against Delhi High Court’s decision of approving their arrest and subsequent custody by Delhi Police in an anti-terror Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case over alleged Chinese funding to promote anti-national sentiments and news.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Kapil Sibal pointed out that this case goes against an order passed by the Supreme Court itself, where it had mentioned that grounds for arrest must be supplied in writing. “The petitioners have not got anything. Check the arrest memo,” said Sibal.

Before he could continue, Gavai said the case would be taken up after the Diwali vacation. Sibal intervened to point out that there was an application for interim relief on medical grounds as Purkayastha is 71 years old.

However, Gavai reiterated that the main petitions and the application for interim relief would be considered on the next date after the vacation.

The duo was arrested by a special cell of Delhi Police on 3 October after a series of raids, based on allegations that NewsClick had received funds from China to conduct Chinese propaganda. Having remained in police custody until 10 October, they were produced in court and sent to judicial custody for a further 10 days until 20 October.

Once the period of judicial custody ended, Delhi Police said they wanted them in police custody for further questioning. On 25 October, additional sessions judge Hardeep Kaur of the Patiala House Courts sent them to police custody.

Meanwhile on 5 October, a Delhi court allowed Purkayastha and Chakravarty's applications seeking a copy of the FIR against them. The Delhi Police had opposed the plea, stating that owing to the "sensitive nature" of the case, they were entitled to withhold the FIR. However, Kaur ordered the police to provide a copy for the plaintiffs.

On 13 October, Justice Tushar Rao Gadela of Delhi High Court had refused to interfere with the arrest and subsequent police remand of Purkayastha and Chakravarty under the controversial UAPA. He had rejected their plea stating that there was no merit in the petitions challenging the trial court's order that remanded them to a week's police custody.

During the hearing, senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal, appearing for Purkayastha, said both the arrest and remand were illegal because the two men had not been informed of the grounds for their arrest.

On 19 October, the Supreme Court issued a notice seeking a response from Delhi Police on petitions filed by Purkayastha and Chakravarty challenging their arrests under the UAPA.

The current case purportedly has its roots in an August report by the New York Times, which claimed that the web portal was funded by a network linked to US millionaire Neville Roy Singham to allegedly promote Chinese propaganda.

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