PUDR welcomes the release of NewsClick editor Prabir Purkayastha

PUDR welcomes the release of NewsClick editor Prabir Purkayastha and the long overdue reminder to law enforcing agencies to respect constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Prabir Purakayastha

People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) welcomes the Supreme Court judgment of May 15, 2024, ordering the release of Prabir Purkayastha in a case of wrongful arrest under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), made by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police. In a hard-hitting judgment spanning 42 pages, the apex court strongly reiterated that ‘the requirement to communicate the grounds of arrest or detention in writing to a person arrested under an offence or placed under preventive detention as provided under Articles 22 (1) and 22 (5) of the Constitution of India,  is sacrosanct and cannot be breached under any situation’ (para 30, Prabir Purkayastha vs State). Underlining that non-compliance of this requirement leads to the custody or the detention being rendered illegal, the court set aside Purkayastha’s arrest and subsequent remand.

Purkayastha had challenged his arrest (of October 3, 2023) as he was not provided with a copy of the FIR and that his arrest memo did not mention the grounds of his arrest. Further, he was produced before the Additional Sessions Judge in the early hours of October 4, 2023, and remanded to seven days of police custody without informing his lawyer. His lawyer was informed after the remand order was passed and was provided with the certified copy of the FIR well after Purkayastha was remanded to police custody. Hence, Purkayastha could not, via his lawyer, challenge his arrest.

The significance of the order in ensuring the constitutional rights of the accused stem from the following observations made by the court:

  • Relying upon a 2023 SC judgment which pertained to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the Court stated that neither the relevant sections of the PMLA nor that of the UAPA contradict the “statutory mandate requiring the arresting officer to inform the grounds of arrest to the person arrested” (para 18).
  • The grounds of arrest have to be recorded in writing and a copy of such written grounds of arrest have to be furnished to the arrested person as a matter of course to any accused, arrested under any provision of law, at the earliest (para 20).
  • The Court made a critical distinction between ‘reasons for arrest’ and ‘grounds for arrest’, stating that while reasons represent general parameters applicable to any accused, grounds must include specific details known to the Investigating Officer concerning the accused (para 38,49,50).
  • The court also clarified that mere filing of a charge sheet in a case does not validate any illegality or unconstitutionality that occurred at the time of the arrest or the grant of initial police custody remand (para 22).

In firmly upholding the view that the investigating agency had erred in not complying with the statutory mandate of informing the accused of the grounds of his arrest, the Court has reminded that the law enforcing agencies must comply with duly laid down procedures. The Court has rebuked the conduct of the investigation officer in noting that “this entire exercise was done in a clandestine manner and was nothing but a blatant attempt to circumvent the due process of law; to confine the accused to police custody without informing him the grounds …” (para 34). In the light of the observations made by the Court, PUDR thinks that this was a fit case for the Supreme Court to direct the State to grant compensation to 73-year-old Purkayastha for suffering 7 months of wrongful incarceration in violation of his rights guaranteed under Articles 21 and 22 of the Constitution, on account of the conduct of the Investigating Officer and appropriate actions should have been directed by the Court against the Investigating Officer for causing infringement of Purkayastha’s rights.

PUDR welcomes the long overdue reminder of constitutionally guaranteed rights by the Supreme Court to the law enforcing agencies, who seem to have forgotten that they are not above the law and that the extraordinary laws such as PMLA and UAPA can make no exceptions to constitutional safeguards provided to an accused.

Paramjeet Singh

Joseph Mathai



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