NewsClick Founder Arrested Under UAPA

NewsClick Founder Arrested Under UAPA
Posted on 04-10-2023

NewsClick Founder Arrested Under UAPA: Unpacking India's Counter-Terrorism Law and Controversial Allegations

The founder and Editor-in-Chief of NewsClick, Prabir Purkayastha, along with the firm's Human Resources head, Amit Chakravarty, have been arrested by the Delhi Police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). This arrest comes in the wake of allegations that the news portal received funds for promoting pro-China propaganda.

The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), enacted in 1967, is India's primary counter-terrorism law. It was established to combat and penalize unlawful and terrorist activities that threaten India's integrity and sovereignty. Some key provisions of the UAPA include granting extensive powers to the Central Government to designate organizations as terrorist entities and specifying penalties for involvement in such organizations' activities. Notably, the UAPA can be applied to both Indian and foreign nationals, and it has extraterritorial jurisdiction.

The UAPA also sets strict timelines for the legal process, requiring that a charge sheet must be filed within 180 days of arrest and that investigations must conclude within 90 days. If these deadlines are not met, the accused becomes eligible for default bail. Special courts are designated for conducting trials under this act.

The UAPA underwent several amendments over the years, with the 2019 amendment expanding its scope. This included empowering the government to designate individuals as terrorists, requiring approval for property seizure by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), and adding more treaties to the list of terrorist acts.

One significant aspect of the UAPA is the requirement for prior sanction from the central or state government or an authorized officer before a court can take cognizance of any offense under the act. The authority granting this sanction is expected to independently review the evidence gathered by the investigating agency.

In the case of Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakravarty, they were arrested under various sections of the UAPA, including those related to unlawful activities, terrorist acts, raising funds for terrorist acts, organizing terrorist camps, and threatening witnesses. Additional charges were registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) related to spreading enmity between different groups and being part of a criminal conspiracy.

These arrests came after The New York Times reported in August 2023 that NewsClick had received funds from American businessman Neville Roy Singham to disseminate Chinese propaganda. The allegations were already under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) since 2021, with accusations of money laundering involving foreign remittances totaling ₹77 crore between 2018 and 2021.

Furthermore, the police conducted raids on the homes and offices of journalists, authors, academics, contributors, and a satirist associated with NewsClick as part of the terrorism case. They were questioned about various events, including the Delhi communal riots, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests of 2019-20, the farmers' protests of 2020-21, and their use of encrypted messaging applications. The police also seized the phones and laptops of all individuals associated with the news portal.

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