The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday (November 20) told the Supreme Court that Kerala-based journalist Siddique 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.
Kappan was arrested on October 5 while he was on his way to Hathras, home to a young Dalit woman who died after being allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men.
The top court today allowed Kappan to meet his lawyers to sign on the vaqalatnama to facilitate his bail.
The bench comprising Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was appearing for Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), which is questioning Kappan’s arrest, and seeking his bail, to go through the reply filed by Uttar Pradesh and file a rejoinder.
“You have the right to file bail and you read the reply and then we will hear you completely,” the bench said.
The bench said the state has no objection to an advocate approaching the accused to get his signature for availing the judicial relief.
“List after one week. In the meantime, the accused person’s signature can be obtained in jail for taking recourse in courts,” the bench said.
Sibal said that lawyers were earlier restrained from approaching Kappan to get his signature.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Uttar Pradesh, countered Sibal’s contention and said they were neither stopped earlier and nor there is any opposition on this.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the state government has alleged that Kappan is the office secretary of Popular Front of India (PFI) and was using a “journalist cover” by showing identity card of a Kerala-based newspaper which was closed in 2018.
Opposing the plea filed by KUWJ, the state has said it is “not maintainable” and the petitioner has “no locus” as the accused is already in touch with his advocates and relatives and he himself can file proceedings through his lawyers.
“It is revealed during investigation that he along with other PFI activists and their student wing (Campus Front of India) leaders were going to Hathras under the garb of Journalism with a very determined design to create a caste divide and disturb law and order situation were found carrying incriminating material,” the affidavit said.
“Last time there was misreporting. I am worried about the inaccurate reporting,” the CJI said, adding, “The reports said that the journalist was refused relief”.
In its affidavit filed in the apex court, the state government has said that Kappan is not in “illegal custody/confinement” but is in judicial custody.
(With inputs from PTI)