Thursday, February 2, 2023

Supreme Court grants bail to Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, arrested under UAPA

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The Supreme Court granted bail to Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan on Friday, who was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The Bench of Chief Justice U.U. Lalit, Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice P.S. Narasimha directed that the petitioner will be released on bail in the next three days, after applying in the lower court.

The Apex Court ordered Kappan to remain in Jangpura police station area in Delhi for the next six weeks after his release. He was directed to visit the police station every Monday and to record his presence in the register there.

Apart from this, the petitioner himself or through a lawyer, will have to appear during the hearing in the trial court, noted the judgement.

The top court of the country further directed Kappan to submit his passport and told him not to indulge in any illegal activity.

He was permitted to go back to his home in Kerala after six weeks.

While noting that the material produced by the prosecution and attributed to Kappan as toolkit seem to be in a foreign language, the Supreme Court observed that every person has the right to freedom of expression.

The Bench wondered how the efforts showing that a victim needed justice could become a crime in the eyes of law.

Representing the Uttar Pradesh government, Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani contended that Kappan had attended a meeting of Popular Front of India (PFI) in September, 2020. He was directed to incite riots in Hathras in the month of October and was given Rs 45,000 for the same, alleged the lawyer.

He further said that Kappan claimed to himself as an accredited journalist of a newspaper, however, investigations have revealed that was accredited to the official organisation of PFI.

Jethmalani also demanded notifying PFI as a terrorist group.

He said there was propaganda surrounding the Hathras incident, alleging that certain mails and directives were part of a propaganda called ‘Justice for Hathras girl,’ which ultimately sought resignation of the Prime Minister.

The Bench remarked that sometimes, protests were needed to bring about a change, giving the example of the agitation at India Gate in 2011, seeking justice for Nirbhaya.

Justice Bhat said that after the India Gate protests, changes were indeed made in laws.

The top court of the country also considered the fact that Kappan has remained in jail for two years and no charges have been framed against him.

Earlier on August 2, the Allahabad High Court had rejected the bail petition of Kappan, a reporter for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham.

He was arrested with three other people by the Uttar Pradesh police in October, 2020, while on way to Hathras to report the alleged gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl.

Kappan is also the Secretary of Delhi unit of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ).

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