The Supreme Court on Monday heard the bail plea of jailed journalist Siddique Kappan and posted the matter for disposal on September 9.
Kappan was arrested in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, in early October 2020 while he was on his way to report on the rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras. He was charged with sedition and under the anti-terror law UAPA, and has been in jail ever since.
Kappan’s counsel, Kapil Sibal, told the court that the charges against the journalist did not hold ground because the Popular Front of India was “not a terror organziation” or even a “banned organization”. The Uttar Pradesh police have cited Kappan’s alleged membership of the Muslim organisation as a ground for the terrorism charges against him, as also his journalistic work. “Responsible journalists do not do such communal reporting. Kappan only and only reports to incite Muslims, which is a hidden agenda of PFI,” they have alleged in the chargesheet. “Some stories were written to sympathise with Maoists and Communists.”
“He is a journalist and like everyone else he went to Hathras to cover a story. Now he’s been in jail for two years,” Sibal told the bench of Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat hearing the petition. The journalist, Sibal addend, worked for a newspaper associated with PFI, but didn’t anymore.
The CJI asked how many people were arrested with Kappan. His driver and two PFI activists, Sibal replied. The driver, Mohammad Alam, was given bail on August 23. “Has the matter of the other two been heard before this court?” the CJI asked. Kapil responded in the negative.
Garima Prashad, additional general advocate of Uttar Pradesh, disputed this, claiming that eight people were arrested along with Kappan. “One was a Delhi riots accused and one a Bulandshahr riots accused. You see how they planned everything?” she asked, suggesting that Kappan was involved in a criminal conspiracy.
The CJI then asked for the status of the case against Kappan that is being heard by the Allahabad High Court. “A 5,000 page chargesheet has been filed of which I have only been given 1000 pages,” said Sibal.
The CJI paused to consult with his fellow judge and then listed the matter for September 9. “The state can respond to the affidavit by September 5 and file a rejoinder if needed within three days,” he said.
Kappan’s plea to the Supreme Court challenges the Allahabad High Court’s of bail on August 4. Before that, a Mathura court had the journalist’s bail plea in November 2020.