After two years in custody, journalist Kappan gets bail

Kerala journalist was in custody of UP police since 6 October 2020

Siddique Kappan, a Kerala journalist, was arrested by UP Police in 2020 for allegedly trying to incite riots. Photo: The
Siddique Kappan, a Kerala journalist, was arrested by UP Police in 2020 for allegedly trying to incite riots. Photo: The

The Supreme Court last week granted bail to Siddique Kappan, a Kerala journalist who has been in the custody of the Uttar Pradesh Police since 6 October 2020, when he was on his way to Hathras to report on the alleged gang rape of a Dalit woman, who later died, reported.

Accusing Kappan of trying to disturb peace and harmony in the area, the UP police booked him under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and picked him up and three others from Mant in Mathura.

Allowing Kappan’s appeal against an order of the Allahabad high court, a Supreme Court bench comprising chief justice of India UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat such as that Siddique Kappan should mark his presence with local police station every week and other conditions, the legal website reported.

Kappan had said he was ‘deputed’ by a web portal named ‘Azhimukham’ to go to Hathras to cover the incident, which the UP police contested.

Kappan was kept in custody under Sections 17/18 of UAPA, Sections 120B, 153A/295A IPC, 65/72 IT Act for alleged conspiracy to incite riots.

Reacting to arguments put forward by senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who represented the state of Uttar Pradesh, the apex court asked, “Every person has the right to free expression. He is trying to show that victim needs justice and raise a common voice. Is that a crime in the eyes of the law?”

“Is there a document which shows that Siddique Kappan must indulge in rioting?” CJI Lalit asked. Jethmalani had claimed Kapppan attended a meeting of the Popular Front of India (PFI) on September 2020, where they had allegedly decided to incite riots in sensitive areas. Jethmalani said Kappan had been funded Rs 45,000 to “create riots.”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented Kappan, said the entire case was “not prosecution, but persecution.”

Granting bail, CJI Lalit said, “The appeal challenges Allahabad High Court order. The appellant was taken in custody on 6 October 2020 and since then has been in custody in connection with Section 17/18 UAPA, 124A, 153A 295A IPC, 65/72 IT Act. It appears the charge sheet has already been filed on 2 April 2021, however, the matter has not been taken into consideration on whether charges need to be framed or not.”

“The application for bail having been rejected by High Court, the instant appeal has been preferred. We have heard Kapil Sibal for the appellant and Mahesh Jethmalani for the State. We have heard Kapil Sibal for the appellant and Mahesh Jethmalani for the State. We have been taken through some documents on record. At this stage, we refrain from dealing with and commenting on the progress of the investigation and the materials collected by the prosecution as the matter is at the framing of charge,” CJI Lalit said.

Welcoming the bail order, an editorial in The Hindu said, “The bail order demonstrates how a clear-headed approach can help judges relieve officials and political leaders of their smug belief that by invoking anti-terror laws, they can keep disfavoured accused in prison for long years without any basis.”

However, the editorial noted that it took two years of Kappan for the courts to act, saying it “reflects poorly on the judiciary”.

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