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“Supreme Court Orders Immediate Release Of NewsClick Founder, Dismissing Arrest Void”

The Supreme Court has unequivocally ordered the immediate release of Prabir Purkayastha, the founder of NewsClick, after deeming his arrest by the Delhi Police under the anti-terror law as illegal. Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta, comprising the bench, made this ruling today, emphasizing that the absence of a remand copy in the case renders the arrest void.

Justice Mehta articulated the court’s stance, stating, “There is no hesitation in the mind of the court that the grounds of arrest were not provided, which vitiates the arrest. The appellant is entitled to release from custody after the Pankaj Bansal case. The remand order is invalid.” This decision aligns with the Supreme Court’s previous judgment in the Pankaj Bansal case, where it mandated that the grounds of arrest must be communicated in writing to the accused.

Moving forward, the trial court will be tasked with imposing bail conditions on Mr. Purkayastha. Despite arguments from Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju advocating for the police, stating that the arrest being declared void doesn’t hinder their authority to exercise correct powers, Justice Gavai reiterated that law enforcement actions must adhere to legal boundaries.

The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of the Delhi Police’s conduct in this matter was evident on April 30, where it questioned the hasty production of Mr. Purkayastha before the magistrate without informing his lawyer post-arrest. The court also expressed astonishment over the remand order being issued before his lawyer received the remand application.

Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing Mr. Purkayastha, highlighted the irregularities in the arrest procedure. Mr. Purkayastha was arrested on October 3 and brought before the magistrate at 6 am the next day, with only legal aid lawyers and the additional public prosecutor present. His lawyer was not notified, and it was only after Mr. Purkayastha objected that the investigating officer informed his lawyer through telephone and sent the remand application via WhatsApp, as detailed by Mr. Sibal.

The principles of natural justice dictate that Mr. Purkayastha’s lawyer should have been present during the remand order’s issuance, as emphasized by the bench. Mr. Purkayastha’s arrest on October 3, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, came in the wake of a New York Times investigation alleging NewsClick’s receipt of funding from entities promoting Chinese propaganda.

Furthermore, a chargesheet filed in March, spanning 8,000 pages with annexures, accused NewsClick and Mr. Purkayastha of terror funding and endorsing Chinese propaganda. Amit Chakravarty, the HR head, was also arrested on October 3 but was subsequently allowed to become an approver in the case in January.

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Author:- Apoorva Arora

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