At the hearing, the CJI once again asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, the counsel for KUWJ, if they were willing to take the matter to a lower court.

Journalist Siddique Kappan is smiling in this image
news Court Wednesday, December 02, 2020 - 15:42

The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing in the habeas corpus plea filed by Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), seeking the release of New Delhi-based journalist Siddique Kappan. He was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on October 5 on his way to Hathras. While the matter has been adjourned for next week, KUWJ will implead Siddique Kappan’s wife and family in the habeas corpus petition. This means that his family will be included as a party in the petition seeking his release from jail.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Chief Justice of India SA Bobde once again asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is the counsel for KUWJ, if they were willing to take the matter to a lower court. Incidentally, on November 16, too, the CJI had asked Kapil Sibal to consider approaching the High Court. However, Kapil Sibal maintained that the matter needs to be heard in the apex court.

READ: ‘Why not move HC?’: SC asks journalist Siddique Kappan, sends notice to UP govt

“There are reasons. The case involves grave violations. The FIR (first information report) is false and he was arrested based on false allegations. There are judgments that say the Supreme Court should consider the allegations in the FIR while considering release on bail,” argued the senior advocate, hinting at the judgment in granting interim bail to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. Incidentally, in a detailed judgment explaining why it granted Arnab Goswami interim bail, the two-judge Bench comprising justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee had said that the Bombay High Court did not conduct a prima facie evaluation of the FIR against Arnab Goswami and other accused in the 2018 suicide abetment case while considering the interim bail plea. The Bench said that by denying interim bail to Arnab Goswami, the HC had “abdicated its constitutional duty and function as a protector of liberty”.

READ: During Arnab hearing, Kapil Sibal points out Siddique Kappan’s ordeal

“In Arnab Goswami's case, your lordships have interfered when the bail application was pending. I will rely on that,” Kapil Sibal added, according to Live Law. When the CJI reminded that such matters should go to the High Court, Kapil Sibal added, “I agree, but there are exceptions.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, pointed out that the bail applications of the three other accused in the case — Aalam, Masood and Atiqur Rahman — are still pending in the Mathura district court. Siddique was travelling with the three other men in the same vehicle on October 5.

On November 21, the Uttar Pradesh government filed a counter-affidavit in the apex court, alleging that the Kerala journalist has links to the Popular Front of India and used an old identity card to pose as a journalist for a newspaper that was shut down in 2018. “What kind of a journalist is he?” the SG argued on Wednesday.

READ: ‘Siddique used ID of newspaper that shut in 2018 to pose as journo’: UP govt to SC

In a rejoinder petition filed on Tuesday, the KUWJ said that unknown numbers, claiming to be Siddique Kappan’s relatives, were added to the counter-affidavit filed by the UP government. KUWJ also alleged that the journalist was allegedly beaten and tortured for almost 12 hours on the day of his arrest.

READ: Siddique Kappan case: Kerala journalists’ group seeks independent inquiry

When the SG argued that the petitioner in the matter is a third-party organisation, the CJI asked Kapil Sibal, “Can you agitate for the rights of the accused like this? We can understand if the accused is saying this.” The senior advocate said that they will implead Siddique Kappan’s wife and family in the habeas corpus petition.

READ: ‘Not spoken to him since his arrest’: Wife of journalist Sidhique Kappan

Siddique Kappan is the Delhi unit secretary of KUWJ. He is a freelancer for Malayalam news website, Azhimukham. He has been charged under Sedition and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA and has been lodged in the Mathura jail since his arrest. 

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