Citing the humanitarian angle of health, Supreme Court on Wednesday has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to shift the Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan from Mathura jail to Delhi for better medical treatment in view of his deteriorating health.
“We direct that Siddique Kappan be shifted to RML Hospital, or AIIMS, or any other govt hospital in Delhi. After recovery, he can be sent back to Mathura Jail,” the bench said.
The bench also stated that Kappan may then approach the lower court for bail.
The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justices Surya Kant, and AS Bopanna had asked the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to file a response by 1 pm after taking State Government instructions.
The bench was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) seeking Kappan’s release.
The apex court stated that the only reason behind considering the suggestion is that the health of Siddique Kappan has deteriorated in the jail and he has been suffering various comorbidities, therefore, it is the responsibility of the State to protect him while he is under its custody.
“You have to consider the suggestion in the context of the precarious health condition of the person and the ultimate responsibility of the state. He has the problem of diabetics, Blood Pressure, he has suffered an injury while in jail. Will he be able to get adequate medical help in jail?” the bench questioned SG Tushar Mehta.
Siddique Kappan was tested positive for Covid-19 and is undergoing treatment in KM Medical College and Hospital in Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura.
SG Tushar Mehta told the court that the medical facilities in Mathura are sufficient.
“Thousands of honest taxpayers are getting treatment in Mathura hospital. People with serious health problems are getting treatment in the State of Uttar Pradesh. Why should the accused get special treatment just because a so-called association of journalists has filed a habeas corpus petition? Why should an accused who is associated with the banned organization get preferential treatment over honest taxpayers,” submitted SG Mehta.
“In that very jail, there would be no less than 100 people with comorbidities,” he added further.
To which the Chief Justice of India replied, “But they are not before us. Also, this writ petition has been pending for long.”
CJI Ramana further added, “Mr. Mehta, for the time being, we should ignore the tag of the organization, because the wife of the accused has also filed an application. It is also in the interest of the state, and you have to protect him when he is in your custody. Let him get better medical facilities. We are confining only to the issue of medical use. We are only on the humanitarian angle of health.”
“People with multiple organs failure also get treatment in UP,” replied SG Mehta.
The bench further clarified that the order was not a reflection on the State government. “Please don’t misunderstand. Our concern is ..for a person residing in Kerala, access to a Delhi hospital will be better than travelling all the way to UP,” said Justice Surya Kant.
The plea filed by KUWJ seeking the release of Kappan submitted, “He is presently hospitalized in KM Medical College, Mathura. It is reliably believed that, more than 50 inmates of Mathura Jail are suffering from COVID, with various scarcities, and even drinking water from toilet, seriously affecting hygiene, health, all leading to a major disaster in the making. In short, as on today, the life of Mr. Sidhique Kappan is in danger for all reasons.”
Besides the petition, Kappan’s wife Raihanth had also written a letter to CJI NV Ramana separately on April 25. The letter stated that Siddique is chained like an animal to the hospital bed. She had requested the CJI to intervene in the matter and keep him back in the Mathura jail till his bail plea is decided.
“It is most respectfully prayed to take immediate steps/pass necessary orders to release Mr. Sidhique Kappan from the Medical college Hospital back to the Mathura Jail as interim relief,” wrote Kappan’s wife.
Kerala based journalist Siddique Kappan and three others were detained by UP police on October 3, 2020. They were booked under the various section of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Assembly (Prevention) Act while they were going to cover the brutal Hathras gang-rape case.
UP Police accused them of being a part of the Popular Front of India. The police also accused them of inciting riots and disrupting social harmony in the state.