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SC orders Purkayastha’s release, terms NewsClick editor’s arrest ‘illegal’

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday declared the arrest of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha by Delhi Police and his remand thereafter in an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 (UAPA) case as “illegal”.

A bench comprising Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta said that a copy of the remand application was not provided to the appellant before passing the remand order on October 4, 2023. Therefore, the arrest and the remand are vitiated.

The arguments in the case were concluded on April 30. It may be recalled that Purkayastha has been in custody since October 2 last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The apex court while directing release of Purkayastha forthwith, said that the prosecution has failed to provide a copy of the remand application showing the grounds of arrest in writing, to the accused-appellant or his counsel before the passing of the remand order on October 4, 2023, which vitiates the arrest and the subsequent remand of the appellant.

As a result, the appellant is entitled to a direction for release from custody.

Citing a judgment passed in the case of Pankaj Bansal, the top court said: “This Court therefore orders the release of Prabir Purkayasatha.”

However, it directed that the release would be subject to furnishing the bail bonds to the satisfaction of the trial court.

Purkayasatha had filed the petition assailing a decision of the Delhi High Court upholding his arrest by the Delhi Police.

The co-accused and NewsClick human resources head Amit Chakraborty had also approached the top court challenging his arrest, but he was allowed to withdraw his plea after he turned approver for the Enforcement Directorate and was granted a pardon.

While the case was pending, Purkayasatha fell ill and was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The court had directed the constitution of a board by the AIIMS Doctors for Purkayastha’s independent medical evaluation.

The medical report sent by the AIIMS doctors was submitted before the apex court on March 20.

The day the verdict was reserved (April 30), Delhi Police’s “hot haste” in producing Purkayastha before the magistrate after his arrest was questioned by the court on the basis that his lawyer was not informed.

The court also expressed surprise at the fact that the remand order was passed before the remand application was served on Purkayastha’s lawyer.

After the order was passed by the court Wednesday, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju asked the court: “ We need to have one clarification, since arrest has been declared void, it may not preclude us from exercising our correct powers to arrest.”

To this Justice Gavai said, “We are not saying anything on that. Whatever you are permitted to do under law, you are permitted.”

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