Journalist arrested under UAPA in Hathras: SC to hear plea after 4 weeks

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear after four weeks a journalists' body plea, challenging the arrest of a scribe in Uttar Pradesh under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

The journalist was arrested by the state police while on his way to Hathras, where a Dalit woman died on September 29 after being allegedly gang raped by four upper caste men on September 14.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, that with the UAPA charges added in the case the journalist will not get any relief from any court in the state.

Sibal said: "No court will give him bail and the case will go on for years."

The bench replied that the petitioner should approach the Allahabad High Court for relief in the matter.

Sibal then submitted that this was a habeas corpus petition. However, his client could file a plea under Article 32, which could be entertained by the top court.

To which the bench pointed out that a habeas corpus petition can only be filed by family members and asked Sibal to amend the petition.

The observation from the top court came on a plea by KUWJ challenging the arrest of the journalist, Siddique Kappan. Sibal sought time to amend the petition and the top court adjourned the matter.

The petitioner contended before the court it has filed the petition after being seriously aggrieved by the violation Articles 14, 19 and 21. The plea claimed that on October 5, Kappan was arrested at Toll Plaza near Hathras, on his way to Boolgarhi village. He was on the way to report on the alleged rape and death of the 19-year-old.

The plea filed through advocate Wills Mathews termed the arrest as "illegal and unconstitutional", and the petitioner urged the apex court to issue directions for Kappan's production and also his release from "illegal detention".

According to the Uttar Pradesh Police, the four men linked with the PFI's student wing Campus Front of India (CFI) were identified as Atiq-ur-Rehman, Siddique, Masood Ahmed and Alam.

The journalist body of Kerala identified Malappuram native Siddique by his full name as Siddique Kappan, and claimed he is a senior Delhi-based journalist.

"Because of coronavirus the petitioner and the family members of the detenue could not move freely and collect further additional information connected with the arrest," said the plea.

The petitioner said neither the family members nor Siddique's colleagues were informed about the arrest nor the place of his detention.

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