On Monday, the Supreme Court gave Kerala Union of Working Journalists’ secretary Siddique Kappan, charged with sedition and in the Uttar Pradesh jail since October, five days to visit his mother at her deathbed in Kerala.
Mr. Kappan was arrested on his way to Hathras where a young Dalit woman had died after being allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men.
The top court bench comprising of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna, and V Ramasubramanian however, said that during his visit he shall not give any interview to the media, including social media. He would not meet any members of the public except his relatives, doctors, or others connected to his mother’s health. He would be back in prison by the end of the fifth day.
Further, the top court directed the Kerala Police to cooperate with its Uttar Pradesh counterpart.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), stated that Kappan’s mother could not talk on video conference and the doctors have said she might live only for two or three more days.
However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, said the condition of Kappan’s mother was not as serious as was being projected and no medical certificates were provided.
“There are posters in Kerala and the wife of Kappan is collecting money in his name as if he is a martyr. When he goes to Kerala to visit his mother, political opinions would be formed,” Mehta said.
To this, the Chief Justice replied “This is not a question of temptation. It is about seeing his mother for the last time. We are willing to commit the error. If she is going to die, what will you do? We are allowing this on humanitarian grounds.”
Mr. Kappan was arrested on October 5 while he was on his way to Hathras, to visit the home of the young Dalit woman who died after being gang-raped, allegedly by four upper-caste men.
The KUWJ had filed a habeas corpus petition in the top court against the arrest of the journalist and sought his immediate production and release from “illegal detention”.
The police, however, said that it had arrested four people having links with the Popular Front of India in Mathura, and identified the arrested persons as Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich, and Alam from Rampur.
Hours after the arrest, the prominent journalist body of Kerala identified Malappuram native Siddique by his full name as Siddique Kappan, saying he is a senior Delhi-based journalist.
The plea stated that the arrest was made in violation of the mandatory guidelines laid down by the apex court and with the sole intention of obstructing the discharge of duty by a journalist. Further, the petition alleged that family members or colleagues have not been informed of his arrest.