The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has sought an independent inquiry by a retired Supreme Court judge into the arrest of journalist Siddique Kappan. He was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on October 5, while on his way to Hathras to allegedly speak to the family of the 19-year-old Dalit woman who died after she was allegedly gang-raped. Siddique and three other men were arrested and charged with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act [UAPA] and Sedition. The KUWJ had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court for his release. However, the Uttar Pradesh government recently opposed the writ petition in a counter-affidavit, stating that Siddique Kappan has links with the Popular Front of India (PFI) and that he used an old identity card to pose as a journalist and enter Hathras.
The KUWJ made an appeal in a rejoinder affidavit, stating that the Uttar Pradesh government’s accusations against the journalist was “false and frivolous”. It has sought an independent inquiry to determine the facts in the illegal arrest and detention of Siddique. In its rejoinder, the KUWJ said that the UP government filed “a misleading affidavit, misrepresenting the facts in order to justify their illegal and unlawful detention and malicious prosecution of Siddique Kappan”.
“Considering the seriousness of the false and frivolous allegations against Kappan, his continuous illegal detention for 56 days, implicating him in UAPA and other allegedly serious offences on basis of some newspaper reports, the deponent seeks an independent inquiry by a retired judge of this court to determine the facts connected with the illegal arrest and detention of accused, including the violation of the mandatory guidelines of the honourable court in DK Basu vs State of West Bengal," read the rejoinder. The DK Basu guidelines, set by the Supreme Court, lay down the guidelines that police need to follow when an individual is detained. While Siddique Kappan was detained on October 5, the FIR (first information report) was registered against him by the Mathura police on October 7.
In its rejoinder, the KUWJ alleged that the UP police wrongly mentioned Siddique’s time of arrest (in the arrest memo) as 4 pm instead of 10 am on October 5. It said that video footage from the area of arrest could establish "the incorrect fact".
When Siddique Kappan was detained by the Uttar Pradesh police, they alleged that some literature that could “disturb the peace in the area” was seized from the journalist. The KUWJ, however, has alleged that no recovery of such incriminating material or pamphlets were seized from Siddique Kappan.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had said that Siddique Kappan and the three other men were heading to Hathras with a “determined design to create a caste divide” and “disturb the law and order situation." In its counter-affidavit, the Uttar Pradesh government also alleged that Siddique Kappan is the Office Secretary of PFI who used a journalist cover by showing the identity card of a Kerala-based newspaper named ‘Tejas’, which was closed in 2018.
In the rejoinder, advocate Wills Mathews, on behalf of the KUWJ, said he had visited Siddique Kappan at the Mathura jail on November 21. During the visit, the journalist said that he was allegedly “beaten with lathi three times on his thigh, slapped three times after taking out the spectacles, dragged, forced to stay awake from 6 pm to 6 am, depriving him of sleep, without proper medicines, along with serious mental torture from October 5 to 6.”
Although the Uttar Pradesh government opposed the habeas corpus in an affidavit to the Supreme Court on November 20, it said it had no objection to Siddique’s lawyer meeting him in jail. In its rejoinder, the KUWJ said, “What prevented the respondents from releasing the accused on bail when the offences or allegations against the accused are bailable in nature.”
Siddique Kappan is the KUWJ’s New Delhi unit secretary, and is freelancing for the Malayalam website Azhimukham.
The KUWJ sought the appointment of a retired Supreme Court judge to conduct a "judicial enquiry" and to submit the report in 30 days, “failing which, it will seriously affect the confidence of the people in the legal system.”
The writ petition will be heard in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.