Probe agencies must give written grounds of arrest in UAPA cases, Supreme Court declares in NewsClick judgment

Informing the arrested person of the grounds of arrest is “salutary and sacrosanct”, the Court says; notes it is the only effective means for the arrested person to consult his advocate, oppose the police custody remand, seek bail

Updated - May 15, 2024 09:11 pm IST

Published - May 15, 2024 08:24 pm IST - NEW DELHI

A view of Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi.

A view of Supreme Court of India, in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Supreme Court on May 15 held that the right to life and personal liberty is the most sacrosanct of fundamental rights while declaring that investigating agencies should provide people arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) with a written copy of information specifying the grounds of their arrest.

A Bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta applied its earlier judgment in the Pankaj Bansal case — which had held that an arrested person should be informed of the grounds of arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) — to UAPA cases.

“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 [be] tantamount to diluting the sanctity of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 22(1) of the Constitution. The Right to Life and Personal Liberty is the most sacrosanct fundamental right,” the court held in the Prabir Purkayastha case judgment on Wednesday.


Justice Mehta, who authored the judgment, said that they found no significant difference in the language employed in Section 19(1) of the PMLA and Section 43B(1) of the UAPA. The provisions in both Acts deal with the power and procedure of arrest.

The court interpreted the common phrase, “inform him [the arrested person] of the grounds for such arrest”, in Section 19(1) and Section 43B(1) of the two Acts, to mean that the communication should be in writing.

The Union government had objected to the idea of extending the ambit of the Pankaj Bansal judgment to UAPA cases. Additional Solicitor-General S.V. Raju had argued that the Pankaj Bansal judgment, pronounced in October last year, dealt only with arrests under the PMLA and not the UAPA.

However, Justice Mehta, in the judgment, dismissed the Centre’s contention. “We have no hesitation in holding that the interpretation of statutory mandate laid down by this court in the case of Pankaj Bansal on the aspect of informing the arrested person the grounds of arrest in writing has to be applied pari passu (on an equal footing) to a person arrested in a case registered under the provisions of the UAPA,” Justice Mehta observed.

Justice and fair play

The court said that at a very basic level, it was true justice and fair play to inform an arrested person, to give him or her a copy of the grounds which had resulted in the arrest.

“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. 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 Supreme Court said, laying down the law.

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