The Supreme Court on Monday granted bail for five days to Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan on an application filed by the Kerala Union Working Journalists seeking his release to meet his ailing 90-year-old bed-ridden mother.
The bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian heard the habeas corpus petition seeking the release of Kappan from illegal detention of UP Police when he was on his way to report on the Hathras incident in October 2020.
During the hearing, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that a video call was arranged on January 20, but the mother could not speak. So a new application has been filed to allow the petitioner to visit his mother since the doctors are saying that the mother’s health condition has worsened.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said he would need time to seek instructions and reply by tomorrow.
Kapil Sibal said the mother may die if there is a delay. Chief Justice Bobde intervened saying this is unfair what if she dies but tomorrow.
SG Mehta said the matter is being considered on humanitarian grounds. Chief Justice Bobde said,
“Yes, we are considering on purely humanitarian grounds and the apprehension that there could be the possible death of the mother.”
Further, Mehta argued that it might be that the situation is being projected this way and the mother may not be very ill. The wife has been collecting money as if the petitioner has done some great things. He is described as the successor of some Haji and posters are being put up.
“We are taking Sibal’s argument on face value and we consider it true. We will ensure he is not paraded and there is no interview. There is no medical record. This is an emotional approach,”
-added SG Mehta.
Chief Justice Bobde said, “We don’t think that a man is likely to lie about his mother’s death. We are not trying to save him and this is nothing to do with the merits of the case.”
To which, SG Mehta suggested that he may be allowed for two days and under police security. He apprehended that the petitioner may be paraded and gather public support.
However, the bench considered it appropriate having regard to the circumstances to permit the detenue to visit his mother in Kerala and come back after the 5th day, ensuring appropriate safeguards for the proposed visit.
The order reads,
“During his visit he shall not give any interview to any media including social media. He shall not meet members of the public except his relatives and doctors and anybody else in connection with his mothers health. He shall be escorted by a team of officers of the UP Police. The state police of Kerala shall cooperate with the UP Police in the matter. It shall be the responsibility of the UP Police to facilitate the travel.”
SG Mehta, meanwhile, clarified that the petitioner is not a detenu but a prisoner. However, the bench replaced the word detenue with Kappan’s name in the order.
The petitioners have contended that the detention of Kappan is violative of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. The petitioners alleged the detention was in violation of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in DK Basu vs State of West Bengal and various other judgments of the Court.
It has been further submitted that the arrest was made with a view to obstruct the discharge of duty of Kappan in the capacity of a journalist. The petitioners have further submitted that neither the family members nor the colleagues of Kappan were informed about his arrest or the place of detention.
The Enforcement Directorate recently filed its first chargesheet under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and named journalist Kappan and three other people allegedly related to PFI and SFI – Atikur Rahman, Masud Ahmed and Mohammad Alam – who were detained on October 5 while travelling to meet the family of the gang-rape victim.