SC issues notice to Uttar Pradesh govt on plea against Kerala journalist's arrest on way to Hathras

The court asked the counsel for the Kerala Union of Working Journalists why it had not approached the Allahabad High Court and said it will keep the matter for Friday

Press Trust of India November 16, 2020 16:31:56 IST
SC issues notice to Uttar Pradesh govt on plea against Kerala journalist's arrest on way to Hathras

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday sought the Uttar Pradesh government's response on a plea challenging the arrest of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan while on his way to Hathras where a young Dalit woman had died after allegedly being gang-raped.

The top court, which has now posted the plea of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) seeking bail for Kappan on 20 December, asked the union as to why it did not approach the Allahabad High Court seeking the same relief.

"We are trying to discourage (Article) 32 petition (Writ petitions under Article 32 are directly filed before the top court). This is not a comment on the merits at all," said a bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

"Issue notice returnable on 20 November. In the meantime, as prayed for, the petitioner (KUWJ) is allowed to serve the Standing Counsel for the respondents/State (Uttar Pradesh)," the bench said in the order.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the journalists' body, sought bail for the scribe saying that there was nothing against the journalist in the FIR lodged at Mathura by Uttar Pradesh police.

The FIR has been filed under various provisions of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against four people having alleged links with the Popular Front of India, or PFI.

PFI had been accused in the past of funding protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act across the country earlier this year.

During the hearing, Sibal said, "the FIR does not name him (Kappan). No offences alleged. He has been in jail since 5 October."

When the top court said that the journalists' body should not have directly come to the top court, Sibal responded by saying," Your lordships have done this under 32 (Article 32 petitions)."

"We are quite aware about our powers under (Article) 32. We find there is a spate of Article 32 petitions," the bench said

Earlier, the top court had said it would hear the plea after four weeks and in the meantime, the journalists' body could approach the Allahabad High Court for relief.

Journalist Siddique Kappan was arrested on 5 October while he was on his way to Hathras, home to the young Dalit woman who died after being gang-raped, allegedly by four upper-caste men.

The union had filed a habeas corpus petition in the top court against the arrest of the journalist and it also sought his immediate production and release from illegal detention.

The police, however, had said it has arrested four people having links with the Popular Front of India in Mathura and identified the arrested persons as Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur.

Hours after the arrest, the prominent journalist body of Kerala identified Malappuram native Siddique by his full name as Siddique Kappan, saying he is a senior Delhi-based journalist.

The plea stated that the arrest was made in violation of the mandatory guidelines laid down by the apex court and with the sole intention of obstructing the discharge of duty by a journalist.

The petition alleged that family members or colleagues have not been informed of his arrest.

Hathras has been in the news following the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped on 14 September, 2020, in a village in the district.

Her cremation at night by the authorities, allegedly without the parents' consent, has triggered widespread outrage.

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