The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Uttar Pradesh government and the state police on a petition challenging the detention of Siddique Kappan, a Kerala-based journalist who was booked and arrested en route to a village in Hathras last month.
A 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped in the village on September 14, earlier this year. After fighting for her life for two weeks, the woman had died in a Delhi hospital, triggering widespread media attention and condemnation from across India.
Kappan and three others were purportedly travelling to the village for reportage on the incident, when they were detained and later booked under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including sedition.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, had challenged Kappan's detention.
During the Supreme Court hearing today, a Bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian wanted to know from Sibal why he had come to the apex court directly, instead of approaching the Allahabad High Court.
The senior counsel requested that the journalist be granted interim bail, pointing out that he had been in jail since October 4.
"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.
The Supreme Court instead 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.
The matter has been listed for hearing on Friday.