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Supreme Court Orders Immediate Release of NewsClick Founder Prabir Purkayastha

The Supreme Court of India has directed the immediate release of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha, who was arrested last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The apex court deemed Purkayastha’s arrest and subsequent remand as invalid, citing procedural lapses in the handling of his case by the trial court.

A bench comprising Justice BR Gavi and Justice Sandeep Mehta arrived at this decision after noting that the remand application and grounds of arrest were not furnished to Purkayastha or his counsel before the custody application was adjudicated upon by the trial court.

The Supreme Court’s ruling underscores the importance of procedural adherence in matters of arrest and custody. While acknowledging the filing of a charge sheet by the Delhi Police in the case, the court has directed Purkayastha’s release on bail, subject to conditions to be determined by the trial court. This decision reflects the judiciary’s commitment to upholding due process and safeguarding individual rights, even in cases involving serious allegations.

Purkayastha’s arrest on October 3 last year, along with NewsClick’s HR head Amit Chakravarty, sent shockwaves through the media fraternity. The Special Cell of the Delhi Police had charged them with purportedly receiving funds from China to undermine India’s sovereignty and incite disaffection against the nation. The FIR alleged a substantial inflow of funds from China into NewsClick’s operations, raising concerns about foreign influence in domestic media affairs.


Controversy and Allegations

The arrests were preceded by raids conducted at multiple locations in Delhi and other states, resulting in the seizure of electronic devices and scrutiny of journalists associated with NewsClick. The police’s actions were driven by allegations of conspiracy to disrupt the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. According to the FIR, Purkayastha was accused of colluding with the People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism to manipulate public opinion through media platforms.

The case gained international attention following an investigative report published by The New York Times, which implicated NewsClick in a global network allegedly funded by a Shanghai-based businessman with ties to the Chinese government. The report claimed that NewsClick, among other outlets, received financial support to disseminate Chinese propaganda and advance Beijing’s narrative on various issues. These revelations added a layer of complexity to the ongoing legal proceedings and fueled debates on media integrity and foreign interference in journalistic practices.


Turning Point and Legal Proceedings

A significant development in the case occurred when Amit Chakravarty, the co-accused and NewsClick’s HR head, opted to cooperate with the authorities. Chakravarty’s decision to become an approver and subsequently being named as a witness in the charge sheet marked a turning point in the investigation. The Delhi High Court’s recent order for his release further spotlighted the evolving dynamics of the case and raised questions about the prosecution’s narrative.

As the legal battle continues, stakeholders await further developments in the proceedings and anticipate the resolution of lingering uncertainties surrounding the allegations leveled against NewsClick and its associates. The Supreme Court’s intervention in ordering Prabir Purkayastha’s release underscores the judiciary’s role in safeguarding individual liberties and ensuring the fair administration of justice, setting a precedent for adherence to due process in cases of national significance.

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