SC seeks medical report of NewsClick founder in UAPA case

SC-Prabir Purkayastha

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Delhi Police to furnish the medical report of Prabir Purkayastha, the founder and editor-in-chief of the news website NewsClick, who is facing charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Purkayastha, 74, has been in Tihar jail since October 2023 for allegedly receiving funds from China to spread anti-national propaganda.

A bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta directed the Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, who appeared for the Delhi Police, to submit the report of the jail medical officer within a week. The bench was hearing a plea by Purkayastha challenging his arrest and remand under the UAPA.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented Purkayastha, told the court that his client was suffering from various ailments and needed urgent medical attention. He urged the court to seek a report from the jail authorities on his health condition.

However, Raju opposed Sibal’s request and said that he would rather get an appropriate report from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He implied that the jail medical officer might not be reliable or impartial.

The bench expressed surprise and displeasure at Raju’s statement and said that it showed the incompetence of the administration and the police. The bench said that if Raju did not trust his own officer, he should remove him or take action against him. The bench also said that it could not proceed on presumptions that all officers were corrupt.

Raju clarified that he was not blaming any specific officer, but he wanted a more credible report from AIIMS. The bench, however, asked him to submit the report of the jail medical officer within a week and adjourned the matter to February 27.

SC-Prabir Purkayastha

Purkayastha is the founder of NewsClick, an independent media organization that covers news from India and elsewhere with a focus on progressive movements. NewsClick has been accused by the Delhi Police of receiving funds from China through a Singapore-based company owned by Neville Roy Singham, an American citizen of Sri Lankan origin.

Amit Chakraborty, the head of the HR department of NewsClick, who was also arrested in the same case, had withdrawn his petition from the court and agreed to become a government witness. Earlier this month, a Delhi court had granted him pardon on the condition that he would make a full disclosure of the facts of the case.