Supreme Court orders release of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha, declares his arrest ‘invalid’

According to the FIR, NewsClick allegedly received huge funds from China to "disrupt the sovereignty of India" and cause disaffection.

BySouth First Desk

Published May 15, 2024 | 11:48 AMUpdatedMay 15, 2024 | 12:07 PM

NewsClick

The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 15 May, declared as “invalid” the arrest of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha in a case under the anti-terror law, and directed that he be released from custody.

The order was issued by a bench of Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta.

According to the FIR by Delhi police, the news portal allegedly received huge funds from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.

Police also alleged that Purkayastha conspired with a group— People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)— to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

NewsClick case: Delhi court extends judicial custody of Prabir Purkayastha, Amit Chakravarty

Senior journalists welcome the move

Former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, N Ram took to X, to share that it was “Great news.”

The Founding editor of The Wire too said it was the “Best News Ever.”

A senior journalist and consultant with the NewsClick too shared the news.

The online news portal called it a good day for Independent media.

NCP (SP) Baramati MP candidate Supriya Sule called the judgement a “significant victory for press freedom.”

She further called the arrest by BJP government illegal and wrote on X: “We are thankful for the court’s commitment to upholding constitutional values and safeguarding the freedom of the press.”

Details of the case

The Special Cell arrested Purkayastha and HR department head Amit Chakravarty on 3 October 2023. They were sent to judicial custody on 10 October.

On 19 October, the top court sought the response of the Delhi Police on pleas of Purkayastha and Chakravarty challenging the Delhi High Court order of 13 October.

The high court had, on 13 October, dismissed their pleas against the arrest and subsequent police remand in the case. The police, however, sought their fresh custodial interrogation on 25 October.

On 16 November, the ED issued a fresh summons to US-based businessman Neville Roy Singham under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

On 30 November, a team of Delhi Police went to Mumbai to question activist Gautam Navlakha in connection with the NewsClick probe.

Also Read: Journalist bodies deplore freezing of NewsClick’s bank accounts

Allegations

The Delhi Police had registered a case under Sections 13, 16, 17, 18, and 22 of the anti-terror UAPA, and also invoked Sections 153A (promoting enmity between two groups) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code on 17 August.

According to the Delhi Police’s remand copy, which was submitted before the court on 4 October when it produced Purkayastha and Chakravarty, the analysis of the e-mails shows that US-based businessman Neville Roy Singham, Purkayastha, and Chakravarty were in direct touch with each other and discussed how to create a map of India without Kashmir and to show Arunachal Pradesh as a disputed area.

According to the FIR, a large amount of funds received by the news portal came from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.

It also alleged Purkayastha conspired with a group — People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) — to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

Raids were conducted at 88 locations in Delhi and seven in other states on 3 October on the suspects named in the FIR and those that surfaced in the analysis of data, the police said.

Around 300 electronic gadgets were also seized from the offices of NewsClick and the residences of the journalists who were examined.

Following the raids, 46 individuals, including nine female journalists, were questioned by the Special Cell in Delhi and NCR.

(With PTI inputs)