Supreme Court raps Delhi Police for 'hot haste' in NewsClick editor's arrest

The top court questioned the Delhi Police Special Cell's conduct, questioning the manner in which Prabir Purkayastha was arrested and how his remand order was passed.
Supreme Court raps Delhi Police for 'hot haste' in NewsClick editor's arrest
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Pulling up the Delhi Police Special Cell for its "hot haste" in producing NewsClick editor Prabir Purkayastha before the magistrate, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked why it did not inform his lawyer before doing so.

The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta asked, "Why didn’t you inform his lawyer in advance? You arrested him the previous day in the evening. You had an entire day to inform him. What was the hot haste to produce him at 6 am?"

"You could’ve produced him at 10 am. Principles of natural justice required to produce him at 10 or 11 am and for his lawyer to be informed," the bench added.

The bench expressed amazement over the fact that Purkayastha's remand order was delivered before his lawyer could be brought on board.

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Supreme Court raps Delhi Police for 'hot haste' in NewsClick editor's arrest

The court also questioned the probe agency's conduct while the arrest was made. It further said that "justice shouldn’t only be done but seemed to have been done'.

The remarks came after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Purkayastha, argued before the court that his client's arrest was 'illegal'. Sibal said that Purkayastha was not provided with 'grounds of arrest'.

"He was arrested on the evening of October 3, 2023 but was produced before trial court the very next day, early morning at 6 AM, without his lawyer being present with him," Sibal said.

According to Sibal a remand lawyer was present there to represent him instead.

Sibal further argued that Purkayastha was produced before court at 6 am, the remand order is recorded to have been passed at 6 am, and the remand application was sent to Purkayastha’s lawyer through WhatsApp only an hour later, after 7 am.

Sibal argued that a different stand was taken by the agency with regard to providing grounds of arrest, where once they said grounds were duly informed to the accused and later told that time and grounds of arrest were mentioned in the case diary, and the special judge had seen it.

ASG SV Raju, appearing for Delhi Police Special Cell, submitted that Purkayastha’s legal team was aware that he was to be produced in 24 hours. Since there was legal aid counsel, there was no need to inform his counsel. However, the same was still done.

He also argued that the grounds for arrest were there in remand application, and the same amounted to communicating grounds of arrest. He submitted that the special cell wanted searches to be done around 6:30 am, so that was the reason for Purkayastha’s production at 6 am. Advocate Zoheb Hossain later told the court that he was produced at 6 am, to obviate an argument on Prabir’s side that because the agency commenced the searches at 6:30 am, their deemed custody had ended.

The court said "Before a remand order is passed, grounds must be communicated. The idea is, unless you inform the accused about the grounds, how can he resist the remand? Prabir Purkayastha was arrested after the judgement. If his arrest and first remand is held illegal, subsequent remand orders would lose substance by itself."

"You (Delhi police special cell) didn’t even file a proper chargesheet in 180 days, with proper sanctions," it added.

The court thereafter reserved its orders on Purkayastha’s plea challenging his arrest and remand in an Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 (UAPA) case.

Purkayastha has been in custody since October 3, 2024 in the case over alleged Chinese funding to fuel 'anti-national propaganda' in India through NewsClick platform.

Source: India Today

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