The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government in connection with the case of journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
A bench comprising Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat said that the court will hear the case next on September 9, when it will be disposed of. He also directed the Uttar Pradesh government to file its response by September 5.
Kappan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police on October 5, 2020, while he was travelling with three other men in a car to 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 create communal disharmony. Subsequently, sedition charges and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act were added.
On August 2, the Allahabad High Court had rejected his bail plea saying that it had emerged during the investigation that Kappan had no work in Hathras when he was arrested.
However, Mohammad Alam, one of the persons booked under the UAPA along with Kappan, was granted bail on Tuesday by the Allahabad High Court. Alam is a member of the Islamic organisation Popular Front of India, while the other two accused persons are Atikur Rahman, the national treasurer of the Campus Front of India, and Masud Ahmed, the general secretary of the outfit’s Delhi unit.
In his petition to the Supreme Court, Kappan said that the intention of his visit was to discharge his professional duty of reporting on the Hathras gangrape case.
The journalist accused the prosecution of taking him into custody on the basis of “trumped up” charges. Kappan’s petition said that his case raised seminal questions pertaining to the right to liberty, as well as the freedom of expression and speech vested in independent media under the Constitution.
During the hearing on Monday, advocate Kapil Sibal, who was representing Kappan, said that his client has been in jail for the last two years.
“The allegation is that PFI [Popular Front of India] gave my client Rs 45,000 and that is the heart of the allegation,” Sibal argued, according to Bar and Bench. “No evidence and only allegation. PFI is not a terrorist or banned organisation.”
Sibal also claimed that out of the 5,000-page chargesheet filed in the case, only 165 pages were handed over to him.
Meanwhile, the counsel representing the Uttar Pradesh government said that there are a total of eight accused in the case and only one has been granted bail. He also claimed that some of the accused are involved in riots in Bulandshahr and Delhi.