The Supreme Court while allowing an appeal of Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Newsclick, held that a person arrested has fundamental right to be informed about the grounds of arrest in writing at the earliest.

The Court observed that the ‘grounds of arrest’ would invariably be personal to the accused and cannot be equated with the ‘reasons of arrest’ which are general in nature.

Prabir had challenged his arrest in a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) on the allegations of promoting fake narratives and jeopardizing national interests on behalf of foreign-funded entities.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta observed, “Resultantly, there is no doubt in the mind of the Court that any person arrested for allegation of commission of offences under the provisions of UAPA or for that matter any other offence(s) has a fundamental and a statutory right to be informed about the grounds of arrest in writing and a copy of such written grounds of arrest have to be furnished to the arrested person as a matter of course and without exception at the earliest. The purpose of informing to the arrested person the grounds of arrest is salutary and sacrosanct inasmuch as, this information would be the only effective means for the arrested person to consult his Advocate; oppose the police custody remand and to seek bail. Any other interpretation would tantamount to diluting the sanctity of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India.”

The Court said that the grounds of arrest informed in writing must convey to the arrested accused all basic facts on which he was being arrested so as to provide him an opportunity of defending himself against custodial remand and to seek bail and thus, the ‘grounds of arrest’ would invariably be personal to the accused and cannot be equated with the ‘reasons of arrest’ which are general in nature. It reiterated that there is a significant difference in the phrase ‘reasons for arrest’ and ‘grounds of arrest’.

“The ‘reasons for arrest’ as indicated in the arrest memo are purely formal parameters, viz., to prevent the accused person from committing any further offence; for proper investigation of the offence; to prevent the accused person from causing the evidence of the offence to disappear or tempering with such evidence in any manner; to prevent the arrested person for making inducement, threat or promise to any person acquainted with the facts of the case so as to dissuade him from disclosing such facts to the Court or to the Investigating Officer. These reasons would commonly apply to any person arrested on charge of a crime whereas the ‘grounds of arrest’ would be required to contain all such details in hand of the Investigating Officer which necessitated the arrest of the accused”, it added.

Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal and Siddharth Aggarwal represented the appellant while ASG Suryaprakash V. Raju represented the respondent.

Facts of the Case -

The officers of the PS Special Cell, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi carried out extensive raids at the residential and official premises of the appellant and the company, namely, M/s. PPK Newsclick Studio Pvt. Ltd. of which the appellant was the Director in connection with an FIR registered for the offences punishable under Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, and 22C of UAPA read with Sections 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). During the course of the search and seizure proceedings, numerous documents and digital devices belonging to the appellant, the company and other employees were seized.

The appellant was arrested and the arrest memo was in a computerised format and did not contain any column regarding the ‘grounds of arrest’ of the appellant. The appellant was presented before the Additional Sessions Judge and was remanded to seven days police custody. He promptly questioned his arrest and the police custody remand granted by the Remand Judge in the Delhi High Court which was rejected by the Single Judge. The said order was under challenge before the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel noted, “We are of the firm opinion that once this Court has interpreted the provisions of the statute in context to the constitutional scheme and has laid down that the grounds of arrest have to be conveyed to the accused in writing expeditiously, the said ratio becomes the law of the land binding on all the Courts in the country by virtue of Article 141 of the Constitution of India.”

The Court said that the arrest memo is simply a proforma indicating the formal ‘reasons’ for which the accused was being arrested. It reiterated that the requirement to communicate the grounds of arrest or the grounds of detention in writing to a person arrested in connection with an offence or a person placed under preventive detention as provided under Articles 22(1) and 22(5) of the Constitution of India is sacrosanct and cannot be breached under any situation and the non-compliance of this constitutional requirement and statutory mandate would lead to the custody or the detention being rendered illegal, as the case may be.

“… the copy of the remand application in the purported exercise of communication of the grounds of arrest in writing was not provided to the accused appellant or his counsel before passing of the order of remand dated 4th October, 2023 which vitiates the arrest and subsequent remand of the appellant”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeal and declared the arrest of the appellant as illegal.

Cause Title- Prabir Purkayastha v. State (NCT of Delhi) (Neutral Citation: 2024 INSC 414)


Appellant: Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Siddharth Aggarwal, Advocate Arshdeep Singh Khurana, AOR Nitin Saluja, Advocates Harsh Srivastava, Harshit Mahalwal, Sidak Singh Anand, Manan Khanna, Nikhil Pawar, Saujanya Shankar, Rupali Samual, Pinky Dubey, Simran Khurana, Ishita Soni, Pranya Madan, and Saahil Mongia.

Respondent: ASG Suryaprakash V Raju, Advocate Zoheb Hussain, AOR Mukesh Kumar Maroria, Advocates Annam Venkatesh, Kanu Agrawal, and Arkaj Kumar.

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