New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the Uttar Pradesh government asking for its responses on a plea seeking the release of arrested journalist Siddique Kappan.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde also sought the Uttar Pradesh Police’s response on Kappan’s plea.
However, it asked the petitioners why they had not approached the high court first and also noted that the petition could still be sent to the high court after the responses are filed. The matter will be next heard on 20 November.
Kappan, who is from Kerala, was arrested on 5 October when he was on his way to Hathras to report on the alleged gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old Dalit woman.
The police had initially arrested Kappan, along with three others, under Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on the suspicion that they may commit some cognisable offence.
However, they were later booked on charges of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code and various other offences, including that of raising funds for terrorism. Section 14 and 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and various other offences under the Information Technology Act were also added against them.
Lawyers, family not allowed to meet Kappan
Following Kappan’s arrest, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) filed a habeas corpus petition challenging Kappan’s custody, arguing that the arrest was illegal and unconstitutional. It has contended that Kappan’s detention violates his fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.
On 12 October, a bench headed by CJI Bobde had expressed disinclination to entertain the petition and had nudged senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for KUWJ, to approach the high court instead.
The bench had then listed the matter after four weeks, and had also refused to issue notice to the UP government. The court had also asked KUWJ to amend the petition to incorporate the subsequent developments in the case.
Meanwhile, KUWJ filed an interim application last week seeking permission for regular video conference meetings between Kappan and his family members and lawyers.
This application claimed that when KUWJ’s lawyers went to Mathura, where Kappan is currently lodged, to meet him for more information on the case, the Mathura chief judicial magistrate denied permission for that.
The plea has further sought orders asking the jail authorities to allow Kappan to sign the vakalatnama that authorises his legal representative, Wills Mathews, to act on his behalf.
“The petitioner is left with no other alternative… as neither applicants nor their lawyer are allowed to meet the accused for conference and for getting the vakalatnama signed,” the application said.
During the hearing Monday, Sibal informed the court that the magistrate in Mathura did not allow Kappan to meet his lawyers or his family. But the bench asked the petitioners why they could not go to the high court instead.
To this, Sibal emphasised that they cannot go to the high court as Kappan is not being allowed to meet anyone. He also pointed out that his advocate has also filed an affidavit saying he could not meet Kappan in jail.
While the bench issued the notices, it added, “We might still send you to HC.”