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SC issues notice to DP on pleas of NewsClick founder & HR Head challenging police custody & remand

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New Delhi: Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice to the Delhi Police and sought its response after hearing the pleas of NewsClick’s founder and EIC, Prabir Purkayastha, and HR Head, Amit Chakraborty.

The accused duo, Purkayastha and Chakraborty, had moved the Supreme Court to challenge their arrest and detention under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) over alleged Chinese funding to promote anti-national propaganda.

The two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice B R Gavai and also comprising Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra, issued notice to Delhi Police and fixed the matter for further hearing next to October 30.

“Issue notice (to Delhi Police). Returnable on October 30, 2023,” Justice Gavai said.

Kapil Sibal, the senior lawyer appearing for the accused, Purkayastha, pleaded with the Apex Court judges that the man (Purkayastha) is inside and he is 72-year old. Please consider it.

Justice Gavai, however, said it cannot be taken up tomorrow. It is the only working day. List it on October 30, the next Monday.

Newsclick founder and Editor-in-Chief Prabir Purkayastha and website’s human resources head Amit Chakraborty had recently moved the Apex Court, challenging their arrest and detention under UAPA over alleged Chinese funding to promote anti-national propaganda.

They had challenged the Delhi High Court’s order upholding the trial court order remanding them to police custody. They have since been remanded to judicial custody.

They were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3 after it searched 30 locations connected with the online news portal and its journalists in a case filed under the UAPA following allegations that it received money for pro-China propaganda.

The accused duo—Purkayastha and Chakravarty—subsequently moved to the High Court, challenging the arrest as well as the seven-day police custody and seeking immediate release as interim relief.

According to the FIR (First Information Report) a large amount of funding for the news portal allegedly came from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.

The probe agency also alleged that Purkayastha conspired with a group called the People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) – to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha poll.

The Delhi High Court last week rejected their pleas and said it is of the view that “the fact is that there are serious offences affecting stability, integrity, sovereignty, and national security have been alleged against the petitioner, and this Court is not inclined to pass any favourable orders.”

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