The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Uttar Pradesh government to submit medical records of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who is arrested by the UP police and is hospitalised in dire condition after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Siddique Kappanâ€™s family had recently come out stating that he is being chained to a cot in the hospital and was not even allowed to use toilets.
Kappan, a Delhi based Malayali journalist, was arrested by UP police on last October while he was on the way to meet the family of the 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras who was gang raped, allegedly by four dominant caste men, and later succumbed to injuries.
Two days back, Kappanâ€™s wife Raihana had written to Chief Justice of Indian (CJI) NV Ramana stating about his alleged ill treatment in the UP hospital.
Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) also alleged that Kappan has been chained to a cot in the hospital he was admitted to after falling in the bathroom and later testing positive for COVID-19.
The UP government refuted the allegations that Kappan has been chained to a cot at the hospital and said it would file a short reply on his medical records by Wednesday.
A bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government, to file the medical records by Wednesday.
At the outset, Mehta said he had preliminary objection to the habeas corpus petition filed by KUWJ as Kappan has been in judicial custody under the judicial order. He said the habeas corpus petition was not maintainable in the case where an accused is under judicial custody.
Advocate Wills Mathew, appearing for KUWJ, said that on April 20 he fell in the bathroom and on April 21 he was tested positive for COVID-19. He added that besides the reliefs being sought, Kappan should also be allowed to talk to his mother via video conference.
The bench, which was facing difficulty in hearing the arguments due to connectivity issue, adjourned the matter for Wednesday.
When we are adjourning the matter for detailed hearing for tomorrow, why are you making arguments now, the bench told Mathew. It asked Mehta to file medical records of Kappan by Wednesday to which the solicitor general agreed.
Kappanâ€™s wife in her letter had said he was shifted to KM Medical College, Mathura, on April 21, where he is presently "chained like an animal in a cot of the hospital, without mobility, and he neither could take food, nor could go to toilet for the last more than 4 days, and is very critical."
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Sunday wrote to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, asking to shift Kappan to a speciality hospital.
On November 16 last year, the top court had sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea challenging the arrest of the journalist.
The FIR has been filed under various provisions of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against four people including Siddique Kappan, alleging links with the Popular Front of India, or PFI, a political outfit.
PFI had been accused in the past of funding protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act across the country earlier this year. The KUWJ had filed a habeas corpus petition in the top court against his arrest and immediate release from illegal detention.
The police had said it arrested four people having links with the PFI in Mathura -- Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur.
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.