The bail petition of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, arrested by the UP police in October 2020 with three others when he was on his way to Hathras in the aftermath of a gangrape and murder case there, has been rejected by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court.
The police have charged Siddique Kappan under the stringent anti-terror law and accused him of trying to spread the terror agenda of the banned outfit Students’ Islamic Movement of India or SIMI. The journalist has maintained he is innocent and is being framed.
“It has come up in the investigation that the applicant had no work at Hathras,” a single judge bench of the Allahabad High Court said While rejecting his bail plea, adding, “A perusal of the charge-sheet and documents adduced, prima facie reveal that the applicant has committed the offence.”
The court also said, “The defence taken by the applicant that he is a journalist and only owing to his professional duty, he wanted to visit the place of Hathras incident stands nullified by the averments in the charge-sheet and the persons, he was arrested with, while travelling in a car. The tainted money being used by the applicant and his colleagues cannot be ruled out.”
Lawyers for Siddique Kappan had argued in court that he is innocent and has never used any platform to spread any disharmony.
Last year, a 5,000-page chargesheet accused Siddique Kappan of links to the banned outfit SIMI, according to a few pages reviewed by NDTV.
Thirty-six articles written by Siddique Kappan – also accused of having links to the Popular Front of India or PFI, an outfit the Yogi Adityanath government wants banned – were cited in the chargesheet.
One of the articles is on the protests against the controversial citizenship law that started in December 2019 across the country and continued till the pandemic began.
“The article talks about the firing by a Hindu man Kapil Gurjar during the Shaheen Bagh protests and compares this incident to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. The article also criticizes the way the Delhi Police handled the protests,” the chargesheet reads.
However, Wills Mathews, Siddique Kappan’s lawyer, called it one-sided.
“Mr Kappan has nothing to hide. He even volunteered to undergo narco analysis or brain mapping tests to prove his innocence ” Mr Mathews said in a statement.
The Delhi unit of Kerala Union of Working Journalists said it was disappointed with the Allahabad High Court’s order.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Hon Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court has dismissed the bail application moved by Mr Siddique Kappan, journalist and former secretary of Kerala Union of Working Journalists Delhi unit. Mr. Kappan is one among our fraternity and is in jail since October 5, 2020. He was arrested while in his way to cover the issue of the rape and murder of a Dalit girl in Hathras,” read a statement from the Delhi unit of Kerala Union of Working Journalists.
The journalists’ body said it will challenge the order in the Supreme Court.
“We are hopeful that the Hon Supreme Court will interfere and uphold the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to every citizen and more particularly to a journalist under part 3 of the Constitution,” it said.
“Democracy will be in trouble if journalists are not given freedom of life and liberty while doing their job,” it further added.