Several leaders of the Opposition and press bodies on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to grant bail to journalist Siddique Kappan, two years after he was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention.
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 had 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. His bail was rejected on August 2 by the Allahabad High Court.
At Friday’s hearing, a bench comprising Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat said that it would not make any comment on the progress of the investigation at this stage. However, it took into consideration the amount of time Kappan has spent in custody and the “peculiar facts and circumstances of the case”.
The journalist, however, will not be able to walk out of jail yet as another case is filed against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The next hearing in the case is on September 19, his lawyer told Scroll.in.
On Friday, Congress leader P Chidambaram welcomed the decision by the Justice Lalit-led bench, saying that a fresh wind is blowing across the legal and judicial system.
“A Sun that has set must rise again,” he remarked in a tweet. “There will be a new dawn.”
His sentiments were echoed by his party member, Shashi Tharoor, who said that the “Supreme Court has stood against indefinite detention at last”.
Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra said that truth has prevailed in the case. “Every person has the right to free expression trying to show the victim needs justice and raising a common voice,” she wrote on Twitter. “Will this be a crime in the eyes of law?”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said that the Supreme Court order reaffirms that everybody has a right to free expression. “I hope in future, the judgements will be decided on the basis of such commitments to free speech,” Yechury said.
The Press Club of India said that Kappan’s arrest was an attempt to curb the freedom of press in the country.
It said that Kappan was made a “soft target” by the Uttar Pradesh government and demanded that police and administration officials be held accountable for failing to prove the charges against the journalist during the trial, PTI reported.
Similarly, the Delhi Union of Journalists said that it hopes Kappan would be granted bail in the other case and will be able to walk out of jail.
“The DUJ [Delhi Union of Journalists] will continue to stand with Kappan in the legal fight against the false cases filed against him,” it said, according to PTI. “The bail order, it feels, is historic as it upholds and protects the freedom of expression in the face of multiple threats today.”