SC grants 5-day bail to journalist to visit ailing mother in Kerala

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New Delhi, Feb 15 (PTI) The Supreme Court Monday granted 5-day interim bail to journalist Siddique Kappan, arrested on his way to Hathras where a young Dalit woman had died after being allegedly gang-raped, to visit his ailing mother.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said the interest of justice would be served if appropriate safeguards are built into the order for the proposed visit of the prisoner.

The apex court said that during his visit he shall not give any interview to the media, including social media.

“We, accordingly, permit the prisoner - Siddique Kappan to go to Kerala for a period of five days only for the purpose of seeing his ailing mother.

“He shall not meet the members of the public. He will be entitled to meet his relatives and doctors and anybody else in connection with his mother's health,” the bench said.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said that Kappan would be escorted by a UP police team and the Kerala police would co-operate with the UP police in the matter.

“It shall be the responsibility of the UP Police to ensure that the prisoner - Siddique Kappan travel to and from his mother's house.

“The police may guard the house from outside, but shall not go inside the house, when the prisoner- Siddique Kappan visits his mother,” the bench said.

This order is passed without prejudice to any contentions raised by the learned Solicitor General in respect of the tenability of the petition, the apex court said.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), stated that Kappan's mother could not talk on video conference and the doctors have said she might live only for two or three more days.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, expressed apprehension that Kappan is likely to use this opportunity to have himself paraded in public and gather support for his activities which are against the law.

He said the condition of Kappan's mother was not as serious as being projected and no medical certificates have been provided.

'There are posters in Kerala and the wife of Kappan is collecting money in his name as if he is a martyr... When he goes to Kerala to visit his mother political opinions would be formed,' Mehta said.

The bench said it was taking Sibal's statements on face value and 'we will not allow him (Kappan) to be paraded and he will go to his house under protection of armed guards'.

On November 16 last year, the top court had sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea challenging the arrest of the journalist on his way to Hathras.

Sibal had sought bail for the scribe saying that there was nothing against the journalist in the FIR lodged at Mathura by Uttar Pradesh police.

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 the Popular Front of India, or PFI.

PFI had been accused in the past of funding protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act across the country earlier this year.

Kappan was arrested on October 5 while he was on his way to Hathras, home to the young Dalit woman who died after being gang-raped, allegedly by four upper-caste men.

The KUWJ had filed a habeas corpus petition in the top court against his arrest and immediate release from “illegal detention”.

The police had said it arrested four people having links with the PFI in Mathura -- Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur.

Hours after the arrest, the prominent journalists' body of Kerala identified Malappuram native Siddique by his full name as Siddique Kappan, saying he is a senior Delhi-based journalist.

The plea stated that the arrest was made in violation of the mandatory guidelines laid down by the apex court and with the sole intention of obstructing the discharge of duty by a journalist.

The petition alleged that family members or colleagues have not been informed of his arrest.

Hathras has been in the news following the death of a 19-year-old 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, has triggered widespread outrage. PTI MNL PKS SJK SA