The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, which is seeking the release of journalist Siddique Kappan, to approach the Allahabad High Court and adjourned the matter for four weeks, Bar and Bench reported.
Kappan along with three others was arrested from Mathura on October 6, while he was on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, to cover the gangrape and murder of a Dalit woman. The state police had alleged the journalist is linked to the Popular Front of India, a Muslim organisation based out of Kerala. He was eventually charged with sedition and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Besides Kappan, three others – Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam – who were travelling with him, were also booked. On Tuesday, they were remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody by a local court in Mathura.
The court was hearing a habeas corpus plea filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, the largest journalists’ body in the state, of which Kappan is a member. The union argued that Kappan’s arrest was a “breach of constitutional values” and was illegal. The petition sought to “know the whereabouts” of the journalist, stating he was “taken into custody flouting all guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the past”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the organisation, asked the court to let him approach them under Article 32 of the Constitution, which gives every citizen the right to move the Supreme Court. “When we filed this plea, it was a habeas corpus petition,” Sibal told the court. “Now we learnt that an FIR was registered. UAPA was invoked. No court in UP will grant us bail. Let us approach you under Article 32 of the Constitution.”
The court, however, told Sibal to approach the Allahabad High Court over the matter. Sibal argued that this would mean the petitioners will continue to remain in jail, according to Live Law. But the court said: “You approach the High Court, we are here in case something wrong happens.”
Kappan and the three other men were arrested hours after Chief Minister Adityanath had alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s political opponents were attempting to conspire against it by “trying to lay a foundation for caste and communal riots through international funding”. The state police have also filed 19 first information reports in Hathras against unidentified persons for allegedly attempting to incite caste-based conflict after the woman’s death last week.
The first information report against them said they were “going to Hathras to disrupt peace as part of larger conspiracy”. The police have also invoked Section 17 of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act that deals with raising funds for terrorist acts.
Besides this, Sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act, for promoting enmity between different groups and affecting religious feelings, were also invoked against them.
The rape case
On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested. However, the woman was hastily cremated by police against her family’s will, while they had been locked indoors. This led to outrage and protests across the country.
The Uttar Pradesh administration has consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – said the forensic lab’s report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed.
Experts have also pointed out that since the samples for the test were collected many days after the crime was committed, sperm would not be present. The autopsy report of the woman had showed that she was strangled and suffered a cervical spine injury. The final diagnosis did not mention rape, but had pointed out that there were tears in her genitalia and there had been “use of force”.
On Saturday, the Central Bureau of Investigation took over the inquiry into the case, which was so far being handled by a special investigation team of the Uttar Pradesh Police.