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SC to Hear NewsClick Editor’s Plea Challenging Arrest Tomorrow

The Supreme Court said that it wants time to go through the file.

The Supreme Court (SC) hearing on the pleas of NewsClick editor-founder Prabir Purkayastha and human resources head (HR) Amit Chakraborty challenging their arrest by the Delhi Police under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for allegedly promoting Chinese propaganda were adjourned on Wednesday to Thursday.

When senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Devadatt Kamat, appearing for Purkayastha and Chakraborty, respectively, said that notice has to be issued in the matter, the Bench of Justices BR Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra said they want time to go through the file and posted the matter for hearing on Thursday, LiveLaw reported.

Last week, the Delhi High Court (HC) had dismissed the pleas of Purkayastha and Chakraborty challenging the trial court order remanding them to seven days of police custody. The duo has been under judicial custody since October 10, which would expire on October 20.

Purkayastha and Chakraborty were arrested by the Delhi Police’s Special Cell following a massive raid at the NewsClick office and the residences of its editors and several employees, consultants and contributors on October 3.

The main ground of the petitioners’ challenge in the HC was that they were not informed of the grounds of arrest in writing and not supplied with the copy of the FIR until they approached the court and got an order to that effect.

The petitioners’ lawyers relied on the recent SC judgement in the Pankaj Bansal v. Union of India which quashed the arrests by the Enforcement Directorate in a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for not furnishing the grounds of the arrest in writing.

However, an HC Bench of Justice Tushar Rao Gedela on October 13 ruled that the Pankaj Bansal case was not applicable to the UAPA.

During the HC hearing Sibal had also claimed that “not a penny” was received by the accused from China.

On the other hand, appearing for the Delhi Police, solicitor general of India Tushar Mehta had submitted that the duo was, in fact, “informed” about the grounds of their arrests though he admitted that the grounds of arrests were not supplied to them.

Dismissing Purkayastha’s petition, the HC had said that there was no procedural infirmity or violation of Section 43B of the UAPA or the Article 22(1) of the Constitution.

In the present case too, the offences which are alleged, fall within the ambit of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and directly impact the stability, integrity and sovereignty of the country and are of utmost importance since they would affect the national security,” the HC had said.

The HC had observed that nothing was placed on record to demonstrate that the timelines as averred in the petition were factually correct in nature or even to suggest otherwise.

In case the argument of the petitioner about non-furnishing of grounds of arrest is taken to be true, then it is inexplicable as to how the petitioner had, on 04.10.2023, even before receiving the copy of the present FIR, gained the knowledge that the present FIR was in the nature of a second FIR registered on the basis of the same allegations and transactions which were levelled against him by the EOW/ECIR in the previous FIR regarding offences under PMLA,” the court said.

The HC observed that Purkayastha’s counsel was provided with the remand application as also was heard, though telephonically by the Special Judge, before passing the remand order.

It is intriguing that the petitioner admits to have met his counsel in the evening hours of 04.10.2023 also, albeit, after seeking permission from the learned Special Judge for such meeting. Yet there is no averment on record to demonstrate as to what effective steps were taken by the counsel for the petitioner even after that.”

Stating that the plea in HC was filed on October 6, “almost three days after the date of arrest and two days after the remand proceedings” there is no explanation forthcoming on that count”, the court had said.

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