The Delhi High Court on Friday said that the Supreme Court’s judgement that grounds for arrest must be provided to the accused persons in writing does not apply to cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Justice Tushar Rao Gedela made the observation while hearing pleas filed by NewsClick’s founder and editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha and human resources head Amit Chakraborty challenging their police remand in a case under the country’s terror law.

The court rejected their petitions on Friday, saying there was no merit in their request.

Purkayastha and Chakraborty were arrested on October 3 after the Delhi Police raided several journalists associated with NewsClick following allegations that the news organisation received money to spread Chinese propaganda. A city court first remanded them to police custody for seven days and subsequently to judicial custody for 10 days.

In the Pankaj Bansal vs Union of India & Others case, the Supreme Court ruled on October 4 that the grounds for arrest need to be given in writing to those being accused under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

Purkayastha and Chakraborty had contended before the High Court that they were not provided with grounds of arrest in writing and therefore, the Delhi Police had violated the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Their counsels argued that Sections 19(1) and (2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Sections 43A and 43B of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act can be interpreted as being alike. The sections pertain to the power of arrest.

However, Justice Gedela remarked that these sections cannot be considered alike. He said that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is geared to protect national security and thus, the sensitivity of the information under the terror law is of more importance than that revealed under the law against money laundering.

Yet, the High Court told the Delhi Police to provide the grounds for the arrest in writing going forward with redacted “sensitive material” to avoid such arrests being challenged legally.

In the first information report registered on August 17, the police accused NewsClick of taking funds from China in a “circuitous and camouflaged manner” to disrupt India’s sovereignty.

The case was registered after The New York Times alleged in an August 5 report that the Indian news website had received money from American businessman Neville Roy Singham, who worked closely with the “Chinese government media machine” to spread its propaganda. The FIR describes Singham as an active member of the propaganda department of the Communist Party of China.

NewsClick has denied these allegations, calling them “untenable and bogus”.

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