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SC Directs AIIMS to Appoint Board for Medical Examination of NewsClick's Prabir Purkayastha

The board shall also consider the jail records and the petitioner's complete medical history, a two-judge bench of the apex court ordered.
NewsClick owner and editor Prabir Purkayastha. Photo: Screengrab via YouTube/NewsClickin

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday (February 27) has instructed the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi to hold an independent medical examination of NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha, as per a Bar and Bench report.

“The board consisting of specialist medical officer, central jail Tihar is received. It is submitted that the report does not show the true medical condition of the petitioner. It is submitted that the record will reveal the report is not correct,” the apex court bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Sandeep Mehta said, according to the report.

The bench added, “Taking into consideration all this, it will be appropriate that the medical condition is examined by a board appointed by the AIIMS director. The board shall also consider the jail records [and the] complete medical history of [the] petitioner. List after two weeks.”

Rejecting the argument of additional solicitor general S.V. Raju, appearing for the Delhi police, that the NewsClick founder was asking for special treatment, the bench underlined that if Asaram Bapu could get medical treatment at AIIMS, then Purkayastha could as well.

Also read | NewsClick: Govt Impunity Caused Seizure of as Many as 250 Devices, Paralysing Work of 90 Journalists

“There is a convict in Jodhpur (Asaram) who keeps getting medical treatment at AIIMS … you can release him and then he can get treated wherever he wants,” the judges observed.

Kapil Sibal, appearing for Purkayastha, highlighted in the court that his client “should not pass away while they [the additional solicitor genera] keep asking for pass over,” adding, “the medical report does not show what has happened in the jail [and] jail records must be called,” as per Bar and Bench.

The court heard the matter as Purkayastha filed a plea challenging the Delhi high court’s order upholding a trial court’s decision to remand him and others in the case to police custody.

Purkayastha and NewsClick HR head Amit Chakravarty were arrested under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after the Delhi police’s special cell seized around 250 electronic devices – including phones, hard disks and laptops – and even the passports of over 90 journalists associated with the New Delhi-based news portal and searched their homes on October 3, 2023.

The FIR in the case purportedly has its roots in a New York Times report published in August 2023.

The Wire had reported how BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had cited the report in the Lok Sabha to claim that Congress leaders and NewsClick had received funds from China to create an “anti-India” atmosphere.

A local court extended the Delhi police’s custody of Purkayastha and Chakravarty until March 15 on Friday (February 24) and observed that it had arrested “just two people” in “such a large conspiracy case”.

“You caught no one else in 150 days? … One person has turned approver, is the other accused Superman who did all this alone?” the court asked according to the Times of India, referring to Chakravarty’s request last month to act as a government witness in the case.

According to The Hindu, the court also told the police that evidence would likely disappear the longer it took to make more arrests in the case.

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