The Supreme Court allowed an appeal filed by Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Newsclick, challenging his arrest in the case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on the allegations of promoting fake narratives and jeopardizing national interests on behalf of foreign-funded entities.

The Court had heard both parties at length in the SLP filed challenging his arrest for the offences 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 and reserved Order on April 30. Purkayastha was arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3, 2023, and is currently in Tihar Jail.

The Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta said, "Though we would have persuaded the release of the appellant without requiring him to furnish bonds of security but since the chargesheet has been filed we feel it appropriate to direct that the appellant shall be released from custody on furnishing bail bonds to the satisfaction of the trial court."

"There is no hestitation in the mind of the Court to reach to a conclusion that the copy of the remand application in the purported exercise of the communication of the grounds of arrest in writing was not provided to the accused appellant or his counsel before the passing of the order of remand dated 4th October a result the appellant therefore is entitled to a direction for release from custody by applying the ratio rendered by this court in the case of Pankaj Bansal....the order passed by the Delhi High Court is declared to be invalid in the eyes of law," the Bench said in its Order.

The Court further clarified that none of the observations made above shall be treated as a comment on the case. Accordingly, the Court allowed the Appeal.

Last Week, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal had appeared for Purkayastha and argued that both the FIR under UAPA and the ECIR filed by the Enforcement Directorate are malafide. He contended that in the affidavit filed before the trial court, the ED had said that the grounds of arrest were informed at the time of arrest and everything was stated in the arrest memo.

He further submitted that before the High Court, ED had submitted that it is not requisite to inform the time of arrest and date of arrest in the remand application and that it only needed to be mentioned in the case diary. The grounds of arrest have not been filed in any court till today, he said. He also referred to the provisions of CrPC and the landmark judgment of Pankaj Bansal v. Union of India (2023) which observed that the supply of grounds of arrest is mandatory for the protection of the Constitutional Rights.

Earlier, the Purkayastha and Newsclick HR head, Amit Chakraborty, had approached the Delhi High Court, challenging the order for a 7-day Police remand, passed by the Special Judge at Patiala House Court, as null and void. However, vide Judgment dated October 13, 2023, the Delhi High Court refused to quash the order. The Court had noted that the offences fell under the UAPA, and they directly affect the stability, integrity, and sovereignty of the country. It was also observed that the offences are of the utmost importance because they have implications for national security.

On the aspect of unlawful remand of the Petitioners, the High Court had held, "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 High Court had also expressed its shock at the fact that the petitioner had the opportunity to meet his counsel on the evening of Oct 3, 2023, after he was arrested, however, the petition did not contain any assertion or claim that the petitioner or his counsel had raised objections to the arrest based on not being informed about the grounds for his arrest.

Recently, several retired High Court Judges among 255 eminent citizens wrote to the CJI seeking action against 'news click' and raised a vehement alarm about the alarming rise of anti-India propaganda driven by fake news and foreign-funded entities.

Cause Title: Prabir Purkayastha v. State of NCT of Delhi (Diary No. 42896-2023)