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09- October-2023-Special-Article

October 9, 2023 @ 7:30 am - 11:30 pm


What is the allegation against the NewsClick?

The main allegation in the FIR against NewsClick is that the news portal allegedly received illegal funding from China routed through the United States.

UAPA framework

UAPA presents an alternate criminal law framework where the general principles of criminal law are reversed. By relaxing timelines for the state to file charge sheets and its stringent conditions for bail, the UAPA gives the state more powers compared with the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The UAPA and its Provisions

Section 15 of the UAPA defines “terrorist act” and is punishable with imprisonment for a term of at least five years to life. In case the terrorist act results in death, the punishment is death or imprisonment for life. This is an offence that describes violent acts that are serious in nature.

The other sections invoked under UAPA

The other provisions invoked against NewsClick include Section 13 (unlawful activities), 16 (terrorist act), 17 (raising funds for terrorist acts), 18 (conspiracy), and 22 (C) (offences by companies, trusts) of the UAPA, along with IPC sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different group) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).

History of UAPA

Enacted in 1967, the UAPA was strengthened by the Congress-led UPA government in 2008 and 2012. The test for denying bail under the UAPA is that the court must be satisfied that a “prima facie” case exists against the accused.

In 2019, the SC defined prima facie narrowly to mean that the courts must not analyze evidence or circumstances but look at the “totality of the case” presented by the state.

In NIA v Zahoor Ahmed Watali, the SC read the bail provisions strictly, holding that courts must only be satisfied that a prima facie case can be made out to deny bail, and not consider the merit or the admissibility of the evidence.

The Case

ED’s investigation revealed that NewsClick received $4.56 million (INR 38 crore) in foreign funding over a period of three years.

The funds were then allegedly distributed to several controversial journalists, including Gautam Navlakha and associates of Teesta Setalvad.

ED also alleged that the funds transferred aimed at promoting a “leftist ideology”.

The action has been taken on the basis of a case registered on August 17 under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 153A (promoting enmity between two groups), 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

About NewsClick

NewsClick, founded in 2009, is known for severely criticizing the Narendra Modi-led government of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The strange case of a terrorism FIR without a terrorist act

The FIR registered by the Delhi Police against Prabir Purkayastha, the founder of NewsClick, and others is a vague amalgam of sweeping accusations that do not actually disclose any offence, leave alone one of terrorism.

Without citing any published content, the FIR alleges offences range from a conspiracy to undermine the country’s security to disrupting the 2019 parliamentary polls, from causing disaffection against the government to disrupting essential services.

There is a general description that foreign funds were infused illegally into India by forces inimical to the country with the objective of causing disaffection against the government, disrupting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India, and threatening its unity and security.

The wide defined terms of UAPA and its fallout

The UAPA is also conducive to such misuse as its widely defined terms can as easily help criminalise people for ‘thought crimes’ as for their acts. The resort to UAPA is also a tactical aid to prolong the incarceration of dissenters and the disfavored and send out a chilling message to the wider media fraternity.


The case flags a disturbing trend: the present regime’s propensity to misuse anti-terror laws and invoke national security sentiment to undermine individual and media rights.

Mains Questions

  1. The recent controversy over the NewsClick and invocation of UAPA against it is a classic example of how widely defined terms under the act can be misused to invoke national security sentiment that undermines the individual and media rights. Discuss (150 Words) 10 Marks


October 9, 2023
7:30 am - 11:30 pm
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