Three days after he was by the Allahabad High Court in a case filed against the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, journalist Siddique Kappan remains in jail.
The Lucknow bench granted Kappan bail on Friday, December 23, which was also the last working day for courts until January 2. The high court order said he will be released after furnishing a personal bond and two local, reliable sureties.
Kappan’s lawyer Mohamed Dhanish told Newslaundry they are forced to wait until courts reopen to complete the process. Additionally, the amount for the personal bond will be fixed by the PMLA court which will be in session only next week.
Dhanish said Kappan’s team is currently searching for locals willing to stand as surety, but they are confident of doing so before they have to present the sureties to the court.
Kappan has been in jail since September 2020, when he was arrested under UAPA charges while going to Hathras to report on the rape case and subsequent death of a Dalit woman. He was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and on charges of sedition. The Supreme Court granted him bail in the case on September 9, 2022.
But he remained in jail in connection with the PMLA case, filed against him and others by the Enforcement Directorate in February last year. Kappan was accused of receiving money from the Popular Front of India to “incite riots”. The UP police had alleged a “PFI nexus”, wherein Kappan’s trip to Hathras was purportedly on the directions of one Rauf Sharif, who is also a coaccused in the ED’s case.
A Lucknow sessions court denied Kappan bail in October. Kappan had to wait two more months for the high court to grant him bail last week.
In the high court, Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh said, “Except for the allegations that Rs 5,000 was transferred in the account of co-accused Atikur Rahman, there is no other transaction, either in the bank account of the accused-applicant or in the bank account of the co-accused. Even if it is believed that part of proceeds of crime was transferred in the account of the co-accused Atikur Rahman, that itself may not be sufficient to prove that the accused-applicant has dealt with the proceeds amounting to Rs 1,36,14,291 which had been allegedly received by KA Rauf Sharif.”
Partly because of this point, the court said, Kappan was granted bail. The court also said there was no likelihood of Kappan committing the same offence in the future and that he had been in prison from October 2020 in “predicate offences”.
The court added that any observations made in the order were “confined for decision on the present bail application” and would not influence “ongoing adjusting proceedings under the PMLA” against Kappan.
Kappan’s lawyer said the biggest challenge right now is that the sureties submitted in the UAPA case have .
“We presented surety and initiated the process three months back,” said Dhanish. “Ideally, it shouldn't take more than a week to verify it. This is the biggest issue we are facing right now.”
On the courts summoning the two individuals standing as surety, he said, “They were summoned in the beginning when the verification was initiated. They should be called again to complete the bail proceedings. That hasn’t happened.”
Kappan’s lawyers had struggled to find Uttar Pradesh residents to stand as surety. A local who finally came forward – Roop Rekha Verma, former acting vice-chancellor of Lucknow University – that she “wouldn't have been able to face myself if I didn’t extend this small help”.
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