SC grants bail to Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan in Hathras case
New Delhi, Sep. 9 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, arrested in October 2020 while on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh after a Dalit woman from there died following gang-rape, appearing dismissive about the protests and saying every person has right to free expression .
“Till now you have not shown anything provocative,” a bench headed by Chief Justice UU Lalit and also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha noted, while granting bail to Kappan who is in jail for almost two years.
The court also took note of the submissions of the Uttar Pradesh government and laid down several conditions for bail, including that he will have to remain in Delhi for the next six weeks after release from the prison and report to Nizamuddin police station here on Monday every week.
The appellant shall be taken to the trial court within three days and shall be released on bail on conditions as deemed fit by the trial court, the bench said in the order, adding, It shall be the condition of bail that the appellant shall stay within the jurisdiction of Nizamuddin area here in Delhi.
Elaborating further, the court said, after a period of six months, he may travel to his native place Malappuram in Kerala and there also he will have to report to the local police station in similar fashion, that is every Monday, and mark his presence in the register kept on that behalf.
The appellant shall not leave the jurisdiction of Delhi without the express consent of the trial court, it said, adding, The appellant shall either in person or through lawyer shall attend the trial court on every single day. The appellant shall deposit his passport with the investigative machinery.
After perusing the records, the bench said, it would refrain from dealing with the progress of investigation and the material collected by the probe agency as the case is at the stage of framing of charges.
The appellant shall not misuse the liberty and shall not get in touch with any of the persons connected with the controversy, the judges said and disposed of the bail plea.
The court also granted Kappan the liberty to avail the right to get bail in another case lodged against him under the anti-money laundering law.
At the outset, the bench inquired about the alleged incriminating evidence found against Kappan by UP police.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the state government, claimed Kappan has links with the PFI, which is a banned organisation in Jharkhand, and there was evidence of him having met certain people belonging to the group with the motive of inciting riots in sensitive areas.
The senior lawyer also referred to the amount of Rs 45,000 allegedly received by Kappan from PFI for inciting riots as a little bit like what happened in Bombay in 1990.”
He said some literature was also recovered to create propaganda and stir the feeling of Dalit community.
Every person has the right to free expression. He is trying to show that victims need justice and raise a common voice. Is that a crime in the eyes of law? CJI Lalit asked referring to widespread protests against the incident.
“Similar protests (in Nirbhaya case) were in 2012 at India Gate, which led to a change of law. Till now you have not shown anything provocative,” the bench said.
Opposing the bail plea, the state government counsel referred to the the recovery of a tool kit from the accused which also contained instructions about how to tackle tear gas.
So this appears to be somewhere from foreign country.., the bench said when Jethmalani submitted that it was in English.
Mr.Jethmalani, we will grant him bail. Which are the conditions you want to impose, the bench said before dictating the order.
The top court had on August 29 sought response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the bail plea of Kappan after senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the journalist, highlighted he was in jail since October, 2020.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had earlier this month rejected the bail application of Kappan, who was also booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in the alleged Hathras conspiracy case.
The FIR was filed under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the UAPA against four people having alleged links with the Popular Front of India (PFI).
The PFI had been accused in the past of funding protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act across the country.
The police had earlier claimed the accused were trying to disturb law and order in Hathras.
The high court had dismissed Kappan’s bail plea, saying “Considering the facts and circumstances of the case, nature of the offence, evidence on record, considering the complicity of the accused, the severity of punishment and the settled law propounded by the apex court, at this stage, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, this court is not inclined to release the applicant on bail.”
Earlier, a Mathura court had junked Kappan’s bail application.
The victim had died at a Delhi hospital a fortnight after her alleged rape by four men from her village on September 14, 2020. She was cremated in the middle of the night in her village.
Her family had claimed the cremation was held without their consent and that they were not allowed to bring home the body one last time.