Siddique Kappan
Siddique Kappan

NEW DELHI: The Uttar Pradesh Government on Friday turned the tables on Siddique Kappan (41), who was arrested with two others on October 5 while proceeding to Hathras where a Dalit woman was gang-raped and killed, dubbing him as a fake journalist and claiming that he was the office secretary of a yet-to-be banned Islamic terrorist outfit Popular Front of India.

In an affidavit, it said Kappan was using a "journalist cover" by furnishing the identity card of a Kerala-based newspaper 'Tejas' which had closed down in 2018, noting that he was going to Hathras with other PFI activists under the 'garb of journalism" with a "very determined design" to create a caste divide and disturb the law and order situation. Based in Delhi, Kappan is the secretary of a local Kerala journalists’ body.

The 3-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde was hearing a writ petition filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) seeking his immediate release and accusing the UP government of framing him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act to stop him from performing his journalistic duties.

Seeking the response of the KUWJ to the UP Government's charges within a week, the Bench fixed the next hearing on December 1. It also allowed senior advocate Kapil Sibal, or any lawyer on his behalf, to meet Kappan in the jail to obtain his signatures on the 'vakalatnama' to move application for his bail.

After 43 days in judicial custody, Kappan was able to call up KUWJ lawyer Wills Mathews on phone last Tuesday. Mathew said: "Around 4-5 pm, Siddique Kappan contacted me from jail. We talked for almost five minutes." No lawyer has been able to physically meet Kappan, though his application to avail of the lawyer's access is pending before the court of a magistrate in Mathura.

The KUWJ had filed a habeas corpus petition seeking immediate release of Kappan, citing violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. The plea filed through advocate Mathews termed the arrest as illegal and unconstitutional.

The three others arrested with him are Siddiqui of Nagla in Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed of Jarwal in Bahraich district, and Alam of Kotwali area in Rampur.

Asserting that the police had informed Kappan's brother and maternal uncle about his arrest, the affidavit said: "At the outset, it is stated that no family member of the accused has approached the jail authorities till date for meeting the accused, nor has any lawyer approached the jail authorities for obtaining his signature to move the court on his behalf." It further claimed Kappan has interacted with his family members thrice.

The claims in the affidavit are contrary to what Sibal told the Apex Court. The latter informed the court that a representative of KUWJ was made to go on a merry-go-round: the magistrate told him to move the jail authorities for permission and the jail authorities sent him back to the magistrate who advised him to approach the Supreme Court. The CJI asked Sibal to go through the affidavit 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 affidavit says: “He did not cooperate in the probe and gave misleading details. His flat mate, who is also a member of PFI and its various wings, denied access to his flat in Delhi. After procuring search warrants, the premises was searched by the police and further incriminating material was recovered which is the subject matter of investigation."

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the UP government, said the state has no objection to an advocate approach the accused to obtain his signatures for availing the judicial relief.

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