A Delhi court on Thursday directed the police to provide NewsClick editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and human resources head Amit Chakraborty a copy of the first information report in a case against them under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, reported Bar and Bench.
Additional sessions judge Hardeep Kaur passed the order on a plea by Purkayastha and Chakraborty seeking a copy of the FIR. The Delhi Police opposed the plea.
Purkayastha and Chakraborty were arrested by the Special Cell of Delhi Police on Tuesday in the case law following allegations that the digital news organisation received money to spread Chinese propaganda.
At Thursday’s hearing, Special Public Prosecutor Atul Shrivastava submitted before a Delhi court that Purkayastha and Chakraborty must follow the “step-by-step procedure” prescribed by the Supreme Court.
Shrivastava said that the applicants should first approach the police commissioner’s office, which will constitute a committee to review the grievance. If the copy of the FIR is still not provided, then the applicants can approach the court, he added.
Shrivastava described their application as “premature” because the police had already provided the grounds for the arrest and the reasons for further remand. “We have already complied with the provisions,” he argued.
Advocate Arshdeep Singh, appearing for Purkayastha, noted that it is his client’s right to receive a copy of the FIR.
“Even if they are saying that the matter is sensitive yet there is no bar...FIR is before the ladyship and there is no bar in providing me the copy and my legal rights are being infringed,” Singh argued. “We are on the third day of the arrest.”
Chakraborty’s lawyer reportedly cited judgements of the Supreme Court as well as the Delhi High Court and said though the offences alleged are “serious” under the anti-terror law, there is no statutory ground for the prosecution to not share a copy of the FIR with the accused persons.
On Tuesday, before arresting Purkayastha and Chakraborty, the Delhi Police raided several journalists associated with NewsClick and later sealed the organisation’s office in connection with the case.
In a statement on Wednesday after Purkayastha and Chakraborty were sent to seven days of police custody, NewsClick said the organisation has not been “informed about the exact particulars of the offences with which we have been charged”.
The organisation has been in the central agencies’ radar for a while now. In February 2021, the Enforcement Directorate had raided NewsClick in a case of alleged unlawful foreign funding.
On August 5, The New York Times published a report claiming that NewsClick had received funds from a network centred around American millionaire Neville Roy Singham to push pro-China propaganda around the world.
At the time, Purkayastha, however, told Scroll that the allegations about the organisation functioning as a mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China were false.
In its statement on Wednesday, NewsClick again asserted that it does not take directions from Singham regarding the content published on its website.