The Delhi High Court Friday said furnishing grounds of arrest in writing to a person being arrested was not mandated under the UAPA but it was “advisable” that the police henceforth provide it after redacting “sensitive material”.
Justice Tushar Rao Gedela, while dealing with a petition by NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha against his arrest and subsequent police remand in a case lodged under UAPA, said the anti-terror law only provided for the accused to be “informed” about the arrest within 24 hours of being apprehended.
The judge also held that the recent Supreme Court decision directing the Enforcement Directorate to henceforth furnish the grounds of arrest to the accused in writing “without exception” cannot be made applicable to UAPA cases as the sensitivity of the information gathered by the investigating authorities in the latter is of “greater significance having direct impact on the issues relating to national security”.
“It is held that the grounds of arrest need to be informed to the arrestee within 24 hours of such arrest, however furnishing of such grounds, in written, are not mandated by the UAPA,” the court said.
“Keeping in view the law laid down by the Supreme Court in (the case of) Pankaj Bansal, and also considering the stringent provisions of UAPA, it would be advisable that the respondent, henceforth, provide grounds of arrest in writing, though after redacting what in the opinion of the respondent would constitute ‘sensitive material’,” the court said.
This approach, it said, would obviate any challenge to the arrest in a case such as the present one.
The court also observed that the order of the top court on furnishing grounds of arrest in writing, which was being relied upon the by petitioner to seek relief, was passed in view of the statutory provisions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and there was “no such similar statutory obligation” under UAPA.
“Clearly the PMLA is an enactment for maintaining the internal law and order in relation to financial crimes and may or may not have relation to threats to the stability, sovereignty and integrity of this country,” the court observed.
“Thus, the ratio laid down by the Supreme Court in Pankaj Bansal while relying upon (the case of ) V. Senthil Balaji which was purely in relation to the provisions of PMLA cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be made applicable, mutatis mutandis (with the necessary changes having been made), to the cases arising under UAPA,” it said.
The court ultimately dismissed the petition by Purkayastha as well as the portal’s human resources department head Amit Chakravarty, holding that there was no “procedural infirmity” or violation of legal or constitutional provisions in relation to the arrest.
Purkayastha and Chakravarty were arrested by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police on October 3 in the case lodged under anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for allegedly receiving money to spread pro-China propaganda.
They subsequently moved the high court challenging the arrest as well as the seven-day police custody and sought immediate release as an interim relief.
On October 10, the trial court sent them to judicial custody for ten days.
According to the FIR, a large amount of funds to the news portal allegedly came from China to “disrupt the sovereignty of India” and cause disaffection against the country.
It also alleged that Purkayastha conspired with a group — People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) — to sabotage the electoral process during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.