The Supreme Court directed the Uttar Pradesh government on Wednesday (April 28) to shift Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan from the Mathura jail to a government hospital in Delhi for medical treatment.
Kappan has to be given treatment either in AIIMS or Ram Lohia hospital or any other government hospital in Delhi, said the apex court, reported Live Law. After his recovery he has to be sent back to Mathura jail, where he is under custody in an Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act case.
Kappan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police last year when he was on his way to Hathras where a young Dalit woman had been gang-raped for allegedly trying to incite communal violence.
This order was issued by Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana while hearing the petition filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) and Kappan’s wife. The bench, which comprised Justices AS Bopanna and Justice Surya Kant as well, disposed off the habeas corpus filed by KUWJ seeking Kappan’s release and given him liberty to seek appropriate legal remedies for bail.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the UP government, vehemently opposed the shifting of Kappan to Delhi. He said that to get COVID beds in Delhi was next to impossible and he knew many bonafide mainstream journalists who were fighting for their life without a bed in the capital. It would be a matter of injustice to lakhs of COVID patients to give Kappan a bed in a Delhi hospital, said Mehta.
Earlier, Mehta had said that several similarly placed accused were getting treatment in hospitals in Uttar Pradesh and Kappan should not be given special treatment just because a journalistic body is a petitioner here.
People with multiple organ failure are also being looked after by the jail hospital in Mathura, he said. The bench said that at this moment it was confined to the limited prayer of granting better health facilities to Kappan since he had suffered a fall in the jail and had other various co-morbidities. And, they said it was the responsibility of the state to protect him under its custody.
“We are confined to health issue. It is in the interest of the state also that the accused gets better treatment,” the bench observed. Our concern is… for a person residing in Kerala, access to a Delhi hospital will be better than travelling all the way to UP, said Justice Surya Kant, reported Live Law.
When the bench made this suggestion, the SG requested for an adjournment till tomorrow saying, “I am taken aback by this.” However, the bench had posted the hearing for 1 pm on Wednesday.
Earlier, the bench heard the arguments of advocate Wills Mathew for KUWJ, who argued that Kappan was illegally arrested and that the allegations in the FIR and the chargesheet did not constitute any offence. UP state also filed an affidavit saying that Kappan has tested negative for COVID and he has been discharged from the Mathura hospital and is back in jail.
Last year, on November 16, the top court had sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea challenging the arrest of the journalist, Kappan. The FIR had been filed under various provisions of the IPC and the UAPA against four people having alleged links with the Popular Front of India, or PFI.