The Supreme Court on Monday, while seeking a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on a plea challenging the arrest of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, said that the top court is trying to "discourage" filing Article 32 petitions.
The term left many on the internet in a fix, as people tried figuring out, to various degrees of success, what exactly this article in the Constitution of India means and why exactly the Supreme Court is trying to discourage Article 32 petitions.
What is Article 32 in the Constitution of India?
Article 32 grants the right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed. The right guaranteed by this article shall not be suspended except as otherwise provided for by the Constitution.
In other words (that is, for the layman not versed in legal jargon), Article 32 basically allows a citizen to file writ petitions directly before the Supreme Court, bypassing lower courts in the process.
What is the context for all this?
The top court, which has now posted the plea of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) seeking bail for Kappan on November 20, asked the union as to why it did not approach the Allahabad High Court seeking the same relief.
In the same context, the Supreme Court Bench, comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, said, "We are trying to discourage (Article) 32 petition. This is not a comment on the merits at all."
Why is the Supreme Court discouraging Article 32 petitions?
During the hearing, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the journalists' body, sought bail for the scribe saying that there was nothing against the journalist in the FIR lodged at Mathura by Uttar Pradesh police.
"There is no mention of Kappan's name either in the case or in the first information report (FIR) filed at the Chandpa police station in Hathras. There are no charges against him. He was not allowed to meet his friends or family, either," contended Sibal, appearing for the Kerala Union of Working Journalists.
It was then that the Bench wanted to know from Sibal why he had come to the apex court directly, instead of approaching the Allahabad High Court.
The court asked the senior counsel to explain why they had not considered approaching the High Court in the interim period.
"We are not on merits of the case," the Bench observed, "Why did you not go to the High Court?"
It is to be noted that during the last hearing, the apex court had said that it would hear a plea after four weeks and the journalists' organisation could approach the Allahabad High Court for relief, in the interim.
When the top court said that the journalists' body should not have directly come to the top court, Sibal responded by saying, "Your lordships have done this under 32 (Article 32 petitions)."
"We are quite aware about our powers under (Article) 32. We find there is a spate of Article 32 petitions," the bench said.
Journalist Siddique Kappan's arrest
Journalist Siddique Kappan was arrested on October 5 while he was on his way to Hathras, home to the young Dalit woman who died after being allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste men.
The union had filed a habeas corpus petition in the top court against the arrest of the journalist and it also sought his immediate production and release from 'illegal detention'.
The police, however, had said it has arrested four people having links with the Popular Front of India in Mathura and identified the arrested persons as Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur.
Hours after the arrest, the prominent journalist 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.