New Delhi, October 16
NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha and its human resources department head Amit Chakraborty on Monday moved the Supreme Court challenging a Delhi High Court verdict dismissing their petitions challenging their arrest and subsequent police remand in a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) – an anti-terror law.
On behalf of Purkayastha and Chakravarty, senior counsel Kapil Sibal mentioned their petition before a three-judge Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud who said he would look at the papers and list it.
Mentioning the petition out of turn, Sibal urged the CJI to list it for urgent hearing, saying, “He (Purkayastha) is a 70-plus man in custody.”
Purkayastha and Chakravarty were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3 after a case was lodged by the Delhi Police against the duo under UAPA for allegedly receiving money to spread pro-China propaganda. According to the FIR, a large amount of funds to the news portal allegedly came from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.
Purkayastha conspired with a group — People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) — to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 general election, police alleged. On October 10, the trial court sent them to judicial custody for 10 days.
The Delhi High Court had on Friday dismissed petitions filed by Purkayastha and Chakravarty challenging their arrest and subsequent police remand under stringent provisions of the UAPA.
Holding that there was no “procedural infirmity” or violation of legal or constitutional provisions in relation to the arrest and the remand order was sustainable in law, Justice Tushar Rao Gedela had rejected their petitions for being “devoid of any merit”.
Justice Gedela had dismissed their contention that they ought to have been supplied with the grounds of arrest after being apprehended by police, saying the UAPA did not mandate furnishing the written grounds and only talked of the accused being “informed” about the reasons for arrest within 24 hours.
“After examining the entire issue in the right perspective, 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 and as such, the arrest is in accordance with law,” it had noted.
However, in view of the recent Supreme Court verdict in Pankaj Bansal’s case, the high court had said it would be “advisable” that the police henceforth provide the grounds of arrest in writing to an accused after redacting “sensitive material”.
The high court had sought to emphasise that offences under the UAPA directly impacted the stability, integrity and sovereignty of the country and were of utmost importance since they affected national security.