India Supreme Court orders immediate release of journalist detained in illegal funding case News
Subhashish Panigrahi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
India Supreme Court orders immediate release of journalist detained in illegal funding case

The Supreme Court of India issued an order Wednesday for the release on bail of Prabir Purkayasth, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of NewsClick. Purkayasth had been detained in a case in which authorities accused NewsClick of receiving illegal funding from China.

Commenting on the Supreme Court order, Advocate Arshdeep Khurana, representing Purkayasth, said:

The Supreme Court has held the arrest and the remand proceedings to be illegal and has directed the release of Purkayastha. We have been directed to furnish the bail bond before the trial court. This is a major and big relief because we have been maintaining from the beginning that the entire proceedings against him were illegal and the manner of arrest was illegal, which has now been upheld by the Supreme Court.

Purkayastha was arrested following a report by The New York Times, which identified NewsClick as one of the media organisations which received funds from American millionaire Neville Roy Singham, allegedly to spread pro-China propaganda.

Delhi Police arrested Purkayastha on October 3, 2023, in connection with multiple offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The arrest had caused widespread protests in the country, with journalist organisations like the Press Club of India and the Editors’ Guild of India strongly condemning the police action.

In his filings before the Delhi High Court, Purkayastha argued that his lawyers received an unsigned copy of the remand application, which lacked crucial details such as the time and grounds of arrest. Purkayastha’s argument focused on the alleged procedural lapses during his arrest, questioning its legality.

Granting bail to the journalist, the top court held:

The purpose of informing the arrested person of the grounds for arrest is salutary and sacrosanct, as this information would be the only effective means for the person to consult his advocate, oppose the police custody remand, and seek bail.

The Delhi Police’s failure to inform Purkayastha about the reason for his arrest before detaining him influenced the court’s ruling. To avoid any potential arbitrariness, the court emphasised the importance of formally communicating these details to an accused before remand. The court’s order did not delve into the merits of the case.

The Supreme Court emphasized the importance of conducting thorough investigations before making arrests. The court also underscored the importance of Article 22(1) of the Constitution of India, which upholds the arrestee’s fundamental right to immediate notification of the grounds of detainment before being taken into custody.