Delhi HC asks police to respond to pleas against arrest of NewsClick founder, HR head

HC refuses to allow interim release of Mr. Purkayastha, Mr. Chakraborty, who were arrested on October 3 in a UAPA case; advocate Kapil Sibal says grounds of arrest were not given to accused

Updated - October 06, 2023 09:49 pm IST

Published - October 06, 2023 04:08 pm IST - New Delhi

Journalists during a protest meeting over police actions on news portal NewsClick, in New Delhi.

Journalists during a protest meeting over police actions on news portal NewsClick, in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the city police to respond to pleas by NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and the news portal’s human resources department head Amit Chakraborty, challenging their arrest in a case lodged under anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

While posting the pleas for hearing on Monday, Justice Tushar Rao Gedela declined a request for the interim release of both Mr. Purkayastha and Mr. Chakraborty for the weekend, saying that “the allegations [do] not seem to be of such a nature which can get you release immediately”.

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‘Serious allegations’

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, representing the Delhi police, said that the allegations were “more serious than meet the eyes”.

Mr. Purkayastha and Mr. Chakraborty were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3 and were ordered to remain in their custody till October 11. The police have also sealed the NewsClick office in Delhi.

The Delhi police had, on August 17, registered a case under Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, and 22 of the UAPA, pertaining to unlawful activities, raising of funds for a terrorist act, and threatening witnesses, as well as Sections 153 A and 120 B of the Indian Penal Code, pertaining to promoting religious enmity between groups on grounds of religion, and criminal conspiracy respectively.

‘Counsel not present’

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Mr. Purkayastha, said that a raid was conducted at his client’s residence on the morning of October 3, after which he was taken to the office of the Special Cell at Lodhi Road. He was arrested the same evening at around 7 p.m.

Mr. Sibal contended that, the next day, his client was produced in front of a trial court judge, at the judge’s residence, at around 6 a.m. The prosecutor and legal aid counsel were present, but Mr. Purkayastha’s legal counsel and family members were not informed, Mr. Sibal said.

As per rules, an accused is entitled to counsel, argued Mr. Sibal, saying, “The magistrate has to ask the accused if I want a counsel. But no such order is passed and my client is remanded. Grounds of arrest are not given to me.”

He added, “What is happening to our courts? That’s all I can say. Grounds of arrest are not given to me. Now there is recent judgment of the Supreme Court that grounds of arrest are not only to be communicated but they have to be handed over to the person in writing.”

‘Secret inputs’

The Delhi police had earlier submitted in the trial court that the UAPA case was based on “secret inputs” that foreign funds worth crores of rupees have been infused illegally into India by Indian and foreign entities with the intention to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.

The police accused the NewsClick founder of holding discussions with Neville Roy Singham, an “active member of Propaganda department of Communist Party of China”, to distort the map of India by projecting Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh as disputed territory. Police said that they had recovered around 4.73 lakh emails, and argued that the accused need to be confronted and interrogated in order to unearth the conspiracy.

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