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NewsClick: Delhi High Court reserves order on pleas challenging arrest of Prabir Purkayastha, Amit Chakraborty

The Delhi High Court on Monday reserved its verdict on petitions filed by Prabir Purkayastha, Founder of NewsClick and Amit Chakraborty, Human Resources head of the online media outlet, challenging their arrest under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act over allegations that the portal received money for pro-China propaganda.

After hearing arguments from the Counsels of Purkayastha, Chakraborty and the Delhi Police for more than two hours, the single-judge Bench of Justice Tushar Rao Gedela reserved the verdict.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Purkayastha, contended that the petitioner was not supplied with the grounds of arrest. He further claimed that ‘not a penny’ was received by the petitioner from China.

Appearing for Delhi Police, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted a reply, as directed by the Bench in its last order, stating that the arrested persons were in fact “informed” the about grounds of arrest.

As per the SG, the petitioners were accused of receiving Rs 75 crore from China and allegedly ensuring that the stability and integrity of the country was compromised. He pointed out that the allegations involved in the matter were very serious.

Responding to the grounds of arrest, Sibal submitted that they were different from reasons and even the reasons provided were also different.

The NewsClick Founder-Editor was also represented by Senior Advocate Dayan Krishnan, who submitted that petitioner’s right under Article 22(1) of the Constitution has been violated as his client was neither provided with the grounds of his arrest, nor was he allowed to have his lawyer at the time of passing of remand order.

Senior Counsel Krishnan referred to the Supreme Court judgement in the case Pankaj Bansal vs Union of India 2023, wherein the Apex Court held that a copy of written grounds of arrest has to be furnished to the arrested person as a matter of course and without exception.

Delhi Police had arrested Purkayastha and Chakraborty on October 3 following a series of raids on the team behind NewsClick as well as its contributors, including independent journalists, following the allegations that they received money for promoting Chinese propaganda. After the raids, police sealed the NewsClick’s Delhi office.

The accused were remanded to police custody for seven days on the night of October 3, after they were produced at the judge’s residence.

Total 46 people were interrogated in connection with the charges. Police took away their digital devices, including laptops and mobile phones, along with certain documents, for examination.

Those questioned included senior journalists Urmilesh, Aunindyo Chakravarty, Abhisar Sharma and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta; historian Sohail Hashmi; satirist Sanjay Rajoura and D Raghunandan of the Centre for Technology and Development. They were interrogated for over six hours and allowed to go later.

NewsClick had come under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Economic Offences Wing (EoW) of the Delhi Police after a report published in the New York Times accused it of receiving money from US millionaire Neville Roy Singham for promoting pro-China propaganda in India.

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