Advocate Wills Mathew, who is representing Siddique in the Supreme Court, said that not allowing anyone to meet the arrested journalist is unlawful.

Journalist Siddique Kappan is seen smiling in this image
news Arrest Friday, October 09, 2020 - 13:41

Till Wednesday, Rehanath was expecting to hear that the Uttar Pradesh police would release her husband, Siddique Kappan, after he was detained near the Hathras toll plaza on Monday morning. “But then I heard that he has been booked under sedition and UAPA (Unlawful Activities Prevention Act) charges,” she told TNM. It was only on Tuesday that some friends had told Rehanath that Siddique, a New Delhi-based journalist originally from Kerala, was arrested along with three other men when he was on his way to cover the Hathras incident where a 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped.

The Uttar Pradesh police initially arrested Siddique and three others — Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam — for having ‘links with the Popular Front of India and its affiliate’ in Mathura. However, as per the FIR (first information report), the four men have been accused of running a website that allegedly explains how to protest safely and avoid the police. According to the UP police, the website foments violence and aims to disrupt peace in Hathras, adding that there was a huge conspiracy behind the four men’s visit to the town.

“It’s a fabricated case and he has been trapped. He was travelling to report, which is his job as a journalist. He has been booked for sedition for doing his job?” asked Rehanath. Siddique writes for various Malayalam news outlets, including the online portal Azhimukham. His wife refuted reports that Siddique is affiliated with the Popular Front of India (PFI). “Neither Siddique nor anybody from our family has any affiliation to any political party. He doesn’t even step out when he’s at home,” said Rehanath, who lives with their three children at Vengara in Kerala’s Malappuram district, near Siddique’s family home.

However, she added that Siddique once worked for Thejas, a Malayalam daily owned by PFI, which stopped publication in 2018. “He must have made friendships with PFI while working with Thejas. But that’s normal, right?”

According to Rehanath, Siddique moved to New Delhi six years ago. “He usually calls me every morning and at 12 every night after finishing his daily work. But I didn’t get any call on October 5. His mobile was switched off. He had seen my previous messages on WhatsApp, but hadn’t responded. The calls to his landline number, too, went unanswered. By Monday night, I started getting anxious,” she told TNM.

She spoke to her husband last on Sunday night. “He didn’t tell me he’d be going to Hathras. He doesn't always share official matters with me, he probably would’ve told me later when we had free time,” she said, adding that she was not aware about the other people who were travelling with him.

What worries Rehanath is that Siddique is diabetic and the distressing situation he is in could cause variation in his blood sugar levels.

Not allowing to meet is against SC judgement

Incidentally, neither Rehanath nor his lawyers have been able to talk to Siddique yet. “They didn’t allow him to call or to meet the lawyer,” Rehanath told TNM.

Speaking to TNM, advocate Wills Mathew, who is representing Siddique in the Supreme Court, said, “We have filed a writ of Habeas Corpus in the apex court, which is still pending. Our lawyer’s request to meet Siddique in the Metropolitan Magistrate court, meanwhile, has been refused, which is unfair.”

Like Rehanath, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), of which Siddique is the President, learnt about the journalist’s arrest via (reports/social media?). Advocate Wills filed the Habeas Corpus based on KUWJ’s petition and has been gathering information from media reports. Not allowing anyone to meet Siddique, Wills pointed out, was against the landmark DK Basu versus State of West Bengal judgement, in which the Supreme Court laid down the guidelines that the police must follow in all arrest and detention cases.

The guidelines state that the arrested person has the right to meet and consult a lawyer during his/her interrogation and that the police cannot deny this right. It also states that the relative or friend of the arrested person must be informed about the arrest, and again, that is the arrested person’s right. The police must contact and inform the relative/friend of the time and place of arrest at the earliest. If the relative is in a different district or city, the police station concerned should be informed within eight to 12 hours of the arrest and then convey the information to the relative.

“This is the law of the land. Whoever may be the person arrested, the guidelines set by the Supreme Court is all that matters here. That is why instead of filing a bail application we have directly approached the SC,” Wills said.

“Being a journalist, Siddique has every right to travel with anybody. Even Tamil journalist Nakkheeran Gopal went to meet (brigand) Veerapan. That doesn’t mean they were (working) together,” Wills said.

“The profession of a journalist is such that they’re bound to know certain information, and without meeting the person concerned, he/she cannot get the information required, whatever it may be. If that is the case, anybody can be arrested,” he noted.

As far as a journalist is concerned, advocate Wills said that there should always be a presumption of innocence in which or whose company he/she is in. “However, that does not mean that he/she can engage in any form of crime to prove a stand. If there’s substantial evidence, like disproportionate assets beyond his means or some other recovery from his/her possession, then that is another footing altogether,” he added.

As a journalist, Siddique has never been well-paid, Rehanath said. “We had to struggle to build our house. We shifted to this house six years ago even before the work could be completed. I sold my ornaments to finish the urgent works,” said the 37-year-old homemaker.

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