Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, has moved the Supreme Court seeking bail, The Indian Express reported on Wednesday.
The journalist’s lawyer Haris Beeran mentioned the case for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana. The bench agreed to list the matter on August 26.
Kappan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police on October 5, 2020, while he was travelling with three other men in a car to Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras where a Dalit woman was gangraped and killed by four upper-caste Thakur men on September 14, 2020.
The police first accused the Kerala-based journalist of intending to start a caste-based riot and to create communal disharmony. Subsequently, sedition charges and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were added.
On August 2, the Allahabad High Court had denied bail to Kappan. Justice Krishna Pahal of the High Court had said that it had emerged during the investigation that the journalist had no work in Hathras when was arrested.
Kappan, in his petition before the Supreme Court, said that he has spent nearly two years in custody on “trumped-up charges” only because he tried to carry out his professional duty of reporting on the Hathras rape case, PTI reported.
The journalist contended that the High Court judgement overlooked well-established principles on granting bail. The petition also stated that neither the first information report nor the chargesheet support invoking Section 17 or Section 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Section 17 of the Act deals with punishment for raising funds for terrorist activities and Section 18 pertains to punishment for conspiracy.
“The conclusion of the High Court to the effect that the petitioner had no work in Hathras is unfounded and baseless and reflects a total non-application of mind,” the petition contended. “The High Court has glossed over the fact that the petitioner, in the discharge of his duties, has travelled extensively over the country for the purpose of reportage.”
Kappan stated that his petition raises “seminal questions” on the right to liberty and freedom of expression for independent media.
Denying bail to Kappan, the Allahabad High Court had also said: “The said sojourn of the applicant with co-accused persons who do not belong to media fraternity is a crucial circumstance going against him.”
The other three persons accused in the case are Atikur Rahman, Masud Ahmed and Mohammad Alam. Rahman is the national treasurer of the Campus Front of India, Ahmed is the general secretary of the outfit’s Delhi unit and Alam is a member of the organisation and the Popular Front of India.
The High Court granted bail to Alam on Tuesday.