Priyanka Singh

Published on: 10 September 2022 at 21:49 IST

The Supreme Court granted bail to Kerala journalist Siddiqui Kappan on Friday. Siddiqui has been under the custody of Uttar Pradesh Police since October 6, 2020 in the Hathras Conspiracy Case.

The Apex Court has asked him to be in Delhi for the next 6 weeks and has allowed him to travel back to Kerala for the past 6 weeks provided that he marks his presence with the local police every week with a few other conditions.

The bench, comprising of Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, allowed the appeal filed by Kappan against the Allahabad High Court’s order denying him bail. Kappan was alleged to have committed offences u/s 17/18 of UAPA, Sections 120B, 153A/295A, and 65/72 IT Act for alleged conspiracy to incite riots since the murder of a Dalit minor girl in Hathras.

About the Case –

Siddiqui Kappan, a journalist, has now spent close to two years in jail alongside others accused by the UP police in October 2020 in relation to the Hathras Conspiracy Case. He was initially arrested for causing a breach of peace, but was subsequently booked under the UAPA, alleging him and his co-passengers of attempting to incite communal disturbances and disrupt social harmony following the gangrape-murder case.

Following this, Kappan moved to the Allahabad High Court post the denial of bail from a local court in Mathura in the month of July, 2021. The Allahabad High Court then denied his bail, stating that he had “no work” at Hathras.

The co-accused cab driver of Kappan, Mohammed Alam, was extended bail by the High Court on the context that Kappan possessed ‘incriminating material’ which was not recovered from Alam.

A Special Leave Petition filed through Advocate Pallavi Pratap submitted that Kappan’s intention of visit was the discharge of his professional duty of journalism in the infamous case, during the term of which he was arrested on the basis of concocted allegations.

Allegations Levelled Against Kappan –

Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani appeared for the State of Uttar Pradesh and pointed towards the substance found against the journalist –

“Kappan was in meeting of PFI in September 2020. It was said in the meeting that funding had stopped. It was decided in the meeting that they will go to sensitive areas and incite riots. On October 5, they went to Hathras to incite riots.

He was funded with Rs 45,000 to create riots. He claimed to be accredited to a newspaper. But we have found that he was accredited to the official organisation of PFI (Popular Front of India). PFI has to be notified as a terrorist group. One State, Jharkhand, has notified it’s a terrorist group. He was there to incite riots. It’s a little bit like what happened in Bombay in 1990.”

To which, CJI enquired about the literature found in his custody and whether or not there were any explosives found with him, to which Jethmalani replied in the negative and told us about Kappan only holding ID cards and literature.

What was found in the Literature?

The question of literature’s being capable enough of provocation and accusation was answered by Jethmanalani, who said that the co-accused proves the submitted contention. Here, the CJI denied the admissibility of the statements of the co-accused and stated that there was yet no approver present to conclude the state’s side.

Sr.Adv. Jethmalani dugged into the possibility of the found literature being provocative in nature, and he labelled it as provocative in nature and stated how the propaganda reflected in the literature wasn’t actually by the Dalits, but by the PFI to cause disharmony.

CJI questioned the Senior Advocate about the nature of literature as a common voice for people seeking justice and how it could contribute to the journalist’s right to free expression.

CJI requested the contents of the piece, to which Jethmalani explained how the substance provided instructions on riot protection, attire, and how to deal with tear gas, as well as that where ‘black people run, run in the same direction.’

Here, Sr. Adv. Sibal interjected and indicated the literature was a reference to the Black Lives Matter protest in the United States.

Bail to Kappan –

Post the arguments, the bench granted bail to Kappan, which read:

“The appeal challenges the Allahabad High Court order. The appellant was taken into custody on October 6, 2020 and since then has been in custody in connection with Section 17/18 UAPA, 124A, 153A, 295A IPC, and 65/72 IT Act. It appears that a chargesheet has already been filed on April 2, 2021, however the matter has not been taken on consideration on whether charges need to be framed or not.”

“The application for bail having been rejected by High Court, the instant appeal has been preferred. We have heard Kapil Sibal for the appellant and Mahesh Jethmalani for the State. We refrain from dealing with and commenting on the progress of investigation and the materials collected by the prosecution as the matter is at framing of charges.

The Court also noted the tenure of custody undergone by the appellant and the facts of the case and directed that

  • The appellant is to be taken to the trial court within 3 days and shall be released on bail on the conditions deemed fit by the trial court.
  • The appellant is conditioned to stay within the Jangpura jurisdiction of Delhi and shall only leave with prior permission of the trial court.
  • For the first 6 weeks, the appellant shall be required to record his attendance at the local police every Monday, post which he shall be at liberty to go to Kerala, where he shall have to mark his presence with the local police as well for the due period.
  • The appellant is required to submit his passport with investigative machinery and shall not keep in touch with any person connected to the dispute.

The Court finally stated that

“Mr. Sibal points out that proceedings under PMLA have also been initiated against the appellant in connection with the appellant’s requirement to attend the proceedings to apply for bail. The conditions as stated above shall stand relaxed to the extent the appellant’s requirement to avail the relief of bail.”

The appeal was accordingly disposed of.

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