On Friday, the Uttar Pradesh government denied illegally confining the Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan, while citing that he was a PFI activist who attempted to create caste and communal tension in Hathras.
Appearing before a bench led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the state, submitted that Siddique was arrested and remanded by a competent court and that his bail plea was heard for nine days. His bail was rejected after nine days of the hearing. They should approach the High Court. He is in judicial custody in pursuance of a valid judicial order passed by a court, Mehta said. He further submitted that the State has no objection to Siddique meeting a lawyer in jail.
The UP government filed an affidavit opposing a petition by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) which challenged Siddique’s arrest. The state said that the plea is “not maintainable” and the petitioner has “no locus” as the accused is already in touch with his advocates and relatives and he himself can file proceedings through his lawyers. Further, in its affidavit, the government accused Siddique of using the garb of journalism to create a “caste divide” in Hathras.
“The person in custody Siddique Kappan is the Office Secretary of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and is using a journalist cover by showing the identity card of a Kerala-based newspaper ‘Tejas’, which was closed in 2018,” stated the UP government in the affidavit.
“It is revealed during the investigation, he, along with other PFI activists and their student wing (Campus Front of India) leaders, was going to Hathras under the garb of journalism with a very determined design to create a caste divide and disturb law and order situation, and was also found carrying incriminating material,” the affidavit stated.
“When he was brought by the STF to Delhi, he misled the police by a residential address, which was later found invalid. He did not assist in the investigation and gave misleading details. His flatmate, who is also a member of the PFI and its various wings, was denied access. Finally, armed with search warrants, when the premises were searched by the police, further incriminating material was recovered, all of which is the subject matter of investigation as stated hereunder,” UP government told the top court.
Subsequently, the SC bench asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for KUWJ, to go through the reply filed by Uttar Pradesh and file a rejoinder.
“You have the right to file bail and you read the reply and then we will hear you completely,” the bench said. “List after one week. In the meantime, the accused person’s signature can be obtained in jail for taking recourse in courts,” added the bench.
Meanwhile, the SC bench also comprising of Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian objected to the manner in which the case was reported in the media.
Siddique, a freelance journalist reporting for Malayalam portals were arrested by the UP police on October 5 along with three others in an FIR registered for alleged criminal conspiracy to create societal unrest in the wake of Hathras incident wherein a Dalit girl had died in a Delhi hospital while undergoing treatment after a gangrape in her village.
Stringent provisions of anti-terror legislation Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and sedition was invoked against Siddique and others.
Earlier on Monday, the SC bench headed by CJI SA Bobde issued a notice in the matter after hearing a plea filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, which has challenged the arrest and sought the release of Siddique. Further, while adjourning the habeas corpus petition filed for the release of Siddique, CJI stated that “We are trying to discourage Article 32 petitions.”
During the hearing on Monday, the Senior advocate Kapil Sibal who appeared for KUWJ submitted that the FIR registered did not mention Siddique and that the Magistrate had not allowed Siddique to meet his lawyers, family, or friends.
“The FIR does not disclose any offense against him. He has been in jail since October 5. When we went to the magistrate asking for permission to meet the journalist, they said to go to jail,” said Sibal.