Kerala Journalist Siddique Kappan, jailed in Uttar Pradesh for nearly two years, was granted bail today by the Supreme Court, which said “Every person has freedom of expression.”
Siddique Kappan was arrested on his way to Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, where he said he was going to report on a 19-year-old’s gang-rape and murder. He was charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for alleged terror funding.
“The person (Kappan) has been in custody for two years,” the Chief Justice of India, UU Lalit, noted.
The court said the journalist has to report to the police in Delhi for the next six weeks and in Kerala after that. He will be produced before a trial court in three days and he has to submit his passport.
A reporter for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham, Siddique Kappan was arrested by the UP police on the charge of trying to disturb law and order in Hathras. He had links with the Popular Front of India (PFI), said the cops. The journalist has always said he is being framed.
In court today, the Uttar Pradesh government argued that Mr Kappan was paid to incite riots and that he is not even an accredited journalist. “He was trying to create a riot situation and use explosives. He belongs to the PFI and that is a terrorist organization,” said Mahesh Jethmalani, lawyer for UP, adding that he had incriminating literature.
The Supreme Court questioned the evidence against Mr Kappan. “What was found with Kappan? No explosives were found, material was not found with him but in the car and they weren’t used for propagating,” Chief Justice Lalit said.
Mr Kappan’s lawyer Kapil Sibal asked the prosecution to read what was in that literature.
“What material was dangerous. Is there any literature which shows anything damaging,” asked the Chief Justice.
UP argued that it was a “toolkit”, a word used by many to describe a guide to stirring an agitation or terror.
The judges said, “What you have shown in terms of literature doesn’t show anything.”
The UP government’s arguments in the Supreme Court mirror its 5,000 page charge sheet filed in 2021.
In the previous hearing, UP had told the court that Mr Kappan is part of a larger conspiracy to “incite religious discord and spread terror”.
The Hathras case drew massive outrage and protests over allegations that the state administration and the police were involved in a cover-up.
The young woman died days after she was gang-raped. Later, the UP police cremated her in the dead of night, in the absence of her family.
Recently, a video of Mr Kappan’s nine-year-old daughter, talking about the “freedom and rights of ordinary citizens” at a school function, went viral on social media.
“I have the firm belief that my husband is innocent, and the 705 days have been extremely painful for the family,” said Raihana Kappan, Mr Kappan’s wife.
Mr Kappan is also facing a money-laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate. The Supreme Court said he could apply for bail in that case too.