SC to hear in January plea of Kerala Journalists’ body against arrest of scribe

The court turned down the submission of Kapil Sibal, appearing for KUWJ, to hear the case in the first week of January instead of the third.

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 S. A. 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 A S 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 Mr. Kappan was arrested on his way to Hathras.

Mr. Kappan claimed that he is 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.

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

We would like to argue the matter in the Supreme Court itself and and implead Mr. Kappan’s wife and others in the plea, Mr. 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, Mr. Sibal had said, adding, Hear me finally .

The Uttar Pradesh government recently filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming that Mr. 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 Mr. 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, KUWJ has urged the Supreme Court that an independent inquiry be conducted by a retired Supreme Court judge to determine the facts of the alleged illegal arrest and detention of Mr. Kappan.

The KUWJ has claimed that Uttar Pradesh Police has made an absolute false and incorrect statement that Mr. 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 Mr. Kappan and there are no materials to support the allegations against him.

It has said Mr. 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.

Mr. 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 Mr. 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 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.

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