Senior advocate Kapil Sibal on Wednesday cited the case of Delhi-based journalist Siddique Kappan to point out the disparity in relief being granted to journalists who are currently in jail. Kapil Sibal was representing the Maharashtra government during the bail hearing of Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, who was arrested a week ago on charges of abetment to suicide. The Supreme Court granted Arnab interim bail, while observing that personal liberty must be upheld. However, during the hearing, arguing against granting him bail, Sibal pointed out that when Sidhique had approached the Supreme Court, the apex court had asked him to approach a lower court.
“A Kerala journalist was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police when he was going to Hathras to report. We came to this court under Article 32 (the right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings). The court said, go to the lower court, and the petition was posted for further hearing after four weeks. Such things are also happening,” Sibal said.
Arnab had moved the Supreme Court after the Bombay High Court denied him interim bail in the 2018 abetment to suicide case and asked the Alibaug court to pass an order within four days. The Alibaug court was scheduled to pass orders on Thursday on his regular bail plea, but his case was taken up by a vacation bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee.
Earlier, during the hearing, Justice Chandrachud said that the bench was not pleased with High Courts rejecting bails when the person in custody had rights to bail, and these cases end up being sent to the Supreme Court, which is already burdened with a lot of workload. “We must send a message today to the High Courts as well. Please exercise your jurisdiction to uphold personal liberty. Case after case, High courts are denying personal liberty,” Justice Chandrachud said.
Siddique Kappan has been in jail for over a month now, and his wife and lawyers say they have not been given the permission to meet him or talk to him. His wife Raihanath recently told the media that he was able to briefly talk to his elderly mother.
Siddique Kappan is a Delhi-based journalist freelancing for a Malayalam online news website. In the early hours of October 5, Sidhique set out to Hathras, to report on the incident where a Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men. Three other men — Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam — were travelling with him in the vehicle. However, the police in Uttar Pradesh stopped their vehicle, seized Siddique’s laptop and phone and some literature claiming it “could impact the peace in the area”.
The police initially alleged that they have links to the Popular Front of India (PFI). The Mathura police then booked them under charges of sedition and the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA. According to the FIR, there was a bigger conspiracy behind their visit to Hathras.
Siddique has not filed any bail application so far. He continues to be in judicial custody. A court in Mathura recently deferred a plea by Uttar Pradesh’s Special Task Force (STF) for police custody.