SC Issues Notice to UP Govt on Bail Plea of Kerala Journalist Siddique Kappan

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“The petitioner is an individual with clean antecedents, and has never fallen foul of the law. He is the sole breadwinner of his family, and his incarceration since October, 2020 has caused untold financial and mental hardship to his family and friends,” said the bail plea

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government on a bail plea filed by Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who along with others were arrested on October 5, 2020 by the Uttar Pradesh Police under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Kappan and others were on their way to Hathras after the rape and murder of a Dalit girl.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Kappan, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit that the heart of the allegation is that PFI put a cash of Rs 45,000 in his client’s account for the activities, however there is no evidence, just allegations.

Sibal said, “PFI is not a terrorist organisation. PFI is not a banned organisation. I am a journalist. I was going to Hathras to cover the case.” He further added that his client in the past had worked for a newspaper, which had an association with PFI, and he does not work with that organisation anymore.

The Uttar Pradesh government counsel opposed Kappan’s bail petition before the bench and added some of the accused in the matter are also accused in the Delhi riots case. Sibal said Kappan is not an accused in the Delhi riots case. After hearing arguments, the bench, also comprising Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, asked the UP counsel to file her objections in the matter and issued notice on Kappan’s plea. The top court has scheduled the matter for final disposal next week.

Earlier this month, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had rejected Kappan’s plea for bail

Kappan’s plea in the apex court said, “As a result of the rejection of the application, the Petitioner, a journalist of 12 years’ experience, who has also served as the secretary of the Delhi chapter of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists continues to be incarcerated. Presently, the petitioner has spent almost two years behind bars, on the basis of trumped-up charges, only because he sought to discharge his professional duty of reporting on the infamous case of the Hathras rape/murder.”

The plea contended that the plea raises seminal questions pertaining to the right to liberty, as well as the freedom of expression and speech vested in independent media under the aegis of the Constitution.

The court had granted bail to the driver of the vehicle in which he was travelling. Kappan’s plea said he is currently employed in the ‘Azhimukham’ newspaper and is also a member of Press Club of India and Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ).

“The petitioner is an individual with clean antecedents, and has never fallen foul of the law. He is the sole breadwinner of his family, and his incarceration since October, 2020 has caused untold financial and mental hardship to his family and friends,” added the plea.

The plea argued that he was arrested on bogus claim that there was an apprehension of breach of peace. The UP government has contended that he has been found associated with the Popular Front of India, which is a “reincarnation” of banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). It was also alleged that Kappan worked for newspaper ‘Tejas’ which closed in December, 2018, and it was a mouthpiece for PFI. — IANS

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