Published by: 25 August 2022 at 21:04 IST
The Kerala-based journalist, Siddique Kappan, approached the Supreme Court seeking bail after the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court denied his bail application earlier this month.
He was booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the alleged Hathras conspiracy case. He was arrested in October 2020 while he was on his way to Hathras to cover a story about a Dalit woman who died after being gang-raped.
The application was filed with a request for urgent listing before the bench comprising of CJI NV Ramana, Justices Hima Kohli, and CT Ravikumar. The court agreed to list it on August 26.
The counsel for the petitioner submits that the petitioner has already spent almost two years in jail, on false charges. He was just discharging his professional duty of reporting on the infamous case of the Hathras rape and murder.
Furthermore, the plea states that, “Therefore, the present petition 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.”
It has been pointed out that the high court has failed to take note of the fact that the FIR or the chargesheet filed ‘ex facie’ does not explicitly mention the invocation of Sections 17 & 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
“The conclusion of the high court to the effect that the petitioner had no work in Hathras is unfounded and baseless and reflects a total non-application of mind. The high court has glossed over the fact that the petitioner, in the discharge of his duties, has travelled extensively over the country for the purpose of reportage,” the plea claimed.
Apart from this, an FIR has been filed under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the UAPA against four persons having alleged links with the Popular Front of India (PFI).
The PFI has been linked in the past with the funding of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act across the country. The police claim that the accused was trying to violate the law and order implemented in the area for a certain period.
The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court dismissed his bail plea, saying, “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, nature of the offence, evidence on record, considering the complicity of the accused, the severity of punishment and the settled law propounded by the apex court, at this stage, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, this court is not inclined to release the applicant on bail.”