6 Oct 2023 10:31 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court on Friday sought response of the Delhi Police on the plea filed by NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha challenging his arrest in the UAPA case registered following allegations of the portal receiving money for pro-China propaganda.Justice Tushar Rao Gedela also sought Delhi Police’s response on a similar plea moved by news portal’s Human Resources head Amit...
The Delhi High Court on Friday sought response of the Delhi Police on the plea filed by NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha challenging his arrest in the UAPA case registered following allegations of the portal receiving money for pro-China propaganda.
Justice Tushar Rao Gedela also sought Delhi Police’s response on a similar plea moved by news portal’s Human Resources head Amit Chakraborty and listed the pleas for hearing on Monday.
Purkayastha and Chakraborty have also challenged the UAPA FIR registered by Delhi Police’s Special Cell as well as the trial court order remanding them to police custody for seven days till October 10.
During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Purkayastha submitted that the arrest is illegal and that no grounds of arrest was given to him. He submitted that the same is in violation of the Delhi High Court Rules which say that an accused is entitled to counsel.
Sibal submitted that the remand order was passed without hearing Purkayastha’s lawyer and without considering his response to the remand application. “They know that I'm the counsel but still they don't inform me. But they inform their counsel. Order is passed without my response,” he said.
On the other hand, SGI Tushar Mehta appearing for Delhi Police requested the matter to be heard on Monday and sought time to file response.
“Mr. Mehta, tell us… The remand order, there appears to be something which is missing there because it's 6 AM and the counsel was not heard,” Justice Gedela told Mehta.
The Court also told Mehta that the grounds of arrest were not disclosed in the remand application.
“Apparently in the remand application, you don't disclose the ground of arrest. Today there is a Supreme Court judgment which is staring in the eye,” court said.
As Sibal requested for an interim release in the meantime, the Court said that the allegations are not of such nature which warrants immediate release.
The Court said that the matter will be heard first thing on Monday morning. Mehta submitted that the case diaries will be placed before the court.
As the counsel appearing for Amit Chakroborty submitted that his client is physically challenged, the court directed the IO to ensure that his medical condition is not compromised in any way.
Earlier this week, while remanding the duo to police custody, the trial court had agreed to hand over the copy of the remand application filed by the Delhi Police to their counsel. Yesterday, the judge ordered that they be supplied with copy of the FIR.
The allegations came to light after a New York Times report published on August 5th alleged that online media outlet NewsClick had received funds from China to create an “anti-India” atmosphere.
This was followed by a series of raids by the Delhi police into the residences of journalists and writers , both past and present, associated with Newsclick.
A statement was issued by the news portal yesterday claiming that it was not provided with a copy of the FIR, or informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which it was charged.
“Electronic devices were seized from the Newsclick premises and homes of employees, without any adherence to due process such as the provision of seizure memos, hash values of the seized data, or even copies of the data. Newsclick’s office has also been sealed in a blatant attempt at preventing us from continuing our reporting,” the statement said.
It added that Newsclick strongly condemn the actions of a Government that “refuses to respect journalistic independence, and treats criticism as sedition or anti-national propaganda.”
“Newsclick has been targeted by a series of actions by various agencies of the Government of India since 2021. Its offices and residences of officials have been raided by the Enforcement Directorate, the Economic Offences Wing of Delhi Police and the Income Tax Department. All devices, laptops, gadgets, phones, etc. have been seized in the past. All emails and communications have been analysed under the microscope. All bank statements, invoices, expenses incurred and sources of funds received by Newsclick in the last several years have been scrutinised by different agencies of the Government from time to time,” it added.
Prior to the NYT report, NewsClick was facing another investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) based on allegations of money laundering. This had initiated multiple raids by ED into the premises of the editors and the case is still pending.
NewsClick and Purkayastha had earlier approached the Delhi High Court seeking a copy of the ECIR registered by ED in September 2020 in the money laundering case, which had passed interim orders on June 21, 2021 and July 20 directing the ED not to take any coercive action against the website and its editor in chief.
Subsequently, ED had sought vacation of two orders passed by a co-ordinate bench on June 21, 2021 and July 20, 2021. The Delhi High Court recently issued notice on an application moved by the Enforcement Directorate.
Case Title: PRABIR PURKAYASTHA v. STATE NCT OF DELHI & ANR. and other connected matters