SC to listen to in January plea of Kerala Journalists’ physique in opposition to arrest of scribe on strategy to Hathras


New Delhi, December 14

The Supreme Court would now hear in the third week of January the plea of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) questioning the arrest of scribe Siddique Kappan on his way to Hathras where a young Dalit woman had died after allegedly being gang-raped.

A bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde on Monday granted opportunity to the journalists’ body to file its response to the additional affidavit of the Uttar Pradesh government in the case and fixed the plea for hearing next year.

The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, did not agree to the submission of senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the KUWJ, that the case be listed in the first week of January instead of third on reopening of courts after the winter break.

“First two weeks (in January) are miscellaneous (weeks when fresh matters will be heard),” the bench said in a hearing conducted through video conferencing.

Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government had told the bench that “shocking findings” have emerged in the investigation so far in the case in which Kappan was arrested on his way to Hathras.

Kappan claimed that he was working as a journalist in a Kerala-based daily but that newspaper was closed two years back and investigation conducted so far has found some shocking findings, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the bench.

The KUWJ, which has been questioning Kappan’s arrest, had refused to approach the Allahabad High Court as suggested by the apex court for seeking bail and other reliefs.

We would like to argue the matter in the Apex Court itself and implead Kappan’s wife and others in the plea, Sibal had said.

“The high court has granted one month’s time on the habeas corpus plea of other accused in the same case and I want to argue here,” Sibal had said, adding, “Hear me finally”.

The Uttar Pradesh government recently filed an affidavit in the Apex Court claiming that Kappan was going to Hathras under the “garb of journalism” with a “very determined design” to create caste divide and disturb law and order situation.

The state has alleged in its affidavit that Kappan is the office secretary of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and was using a “journalist cover” by showing identity card of a Kerela-based newspaper which was closed in 2018.

In its counter affidavit filed in the matter, the KUWJ has urged the Apex Court that an independent inquiry be conducted by a retired top court judge to determine the facts of the alleged “illegal arrest and detention” of Kappan.

The KUWJ has claimed that Uttar Pradesh Police has made an “absolute false and incorrect statement” that Kappan is the office secretary of PFI as he is working as a journalist only.

In its rejoinder affidavit, KUWJ has alleged that the state filed a “misleading affidavit, misrepresenting the facts in order to justify their illegal and unlawful detention and malicious prosecution” of Kappan and there are no materials to support the allegations against him.

It has said Kappan had attempted to visit Hathras on October 5 in discharge of his journalistic duties and he had intimated his employer prior to his trip.

Kappan was arrested on October 5 while he was on his way to Hathras, home to the 19-year-old Dalit woman who died after being allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men.

The police had said it has arrested four people having alleged links with the PFI in Mathura and identified the arrested persons as Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur.

The FIR has been filed under various provisions of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against four people having alleged links with the PFI.

The PFI had been accused in the past of funding protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act across the country earlier this year.

Hathras was in the news following the death of Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped on September 14, 2020, in a village in the district.

Her cremation at night by the authorities, allegedly without the parents’ consent, had triggered widespread outrage. PTI



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