'Why the haste?': SC asks ED why Newsclick founder was not informed about remand order

The top court passed these remarks after hearing the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by Purkayastha, seeking immediate interim bail due to seriously deteriorating health conditions.
Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor-in-chief of NewsClick.
Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor-in-chief of NewsClick. (Photo | NewsClick.in)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned the Enforcement Directorate (ED) regarding its failure to notify the lawyer of Newsclick founder and EIC Prabir Purkayastha before the agency's intention to seek his remand in a UAPA case filed against him.

Purkayastha, 74, is currently lodged in Tihar jail in a case registered by the ED against him under the anti-terror law UAPA (Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act) over allegations that his company had received money for Chinese propaganda.

"It is a big haste to have the remand order passed on October 4, at 6 am, without informing him (Purkayastha)," a two-judge bench of the top court, led by Justice BR Gavai and Justice Sandeep Mehta, observed today.

"Why did you not inform his lawyer? What was the hot haste in producing him at 6 AM? You arrested him at 5.45 PM the previous day. You had the whole day before you. Why the haste?" the top court asked.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju, appearing for the ED, replied that the order was not passed at 6 am and that time was written by mistake by the trial court judge.

ASG Raju informed the bench that 6 am was the time of production and not that of the order. "Actually, the ED produced him at 6 am at the judges residence, and we wanted to do early searches at 6:30 am. The time has been mistakenly written," he said.

The top court passed these remarks after hearing the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by Purkayastha, seeking immediate interim bail owing to seriously deteriorating health conditions.

The top court, after hearing a detailed argument from Purkayastha's counsel and ED, reserved the judgement on his bail plea.

Replying to the court's queries, ED had said that there was no requirement to give grounds of arrest under UAPA and PMLA in writing because they are already recording the reasons to believe in writing.

Lawyer Zoheb Hossain, appearing for the ED, said as per the law and statute laid down in the guidelines, there was no such mandate as far as communicating and writing are concerned.

In another development in the same case, the Patiala House Court took cognizance of the chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police against Purkayastha and other accused persons. The Court will hear the case on May 31.

On February 27, the top court, in its order, directed the AIIMS authorities to constitute a medical board of experts to evaluate the health condition of Purkayastha. It passed the order for forming a medical board after his lawyer, Kapil Sibal, pleaded that the 74-year-old was having serious health issues. "The only thing we want right now is that this court should call for a medical report from the (Tihar) jail superintendent. The man is 74 years old and is in great difficulty," Sibal had submitted to the apex court.

Purkayastha and his associate, Amit Chakraborty, HR head of NewsClick, were arrested following the allegations that NewsClick had allegedly received money for pro-China propaganda.

On October 3, the Special Cell of the Delhi Police arrested them after a thorough search of around 30 locations connected with the online news portal and its journalists in a case filed under the UAPA.

According to the FIR, huge funds for the news portal allegedly came from China to "disrupt" India's sovereignty and "illegally cause disaffection" against the country.

The Delhi High Court had on October 13 dismissed their pleas against arrest and subsequent police remand in the case. Both were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3. Last month, a Delhi court allowed Chakraborty to turn approver in the case.

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