The Chief Justice of India, UU Lalit, questioned the evidence against Kappan and said he has been in jail for two years.
TCN Staff Reporter
NEW DELHI — Siddique Kappan, a journalist from Kerala jailed in Uttar Pradesh for nearly two years in Hathras conspiracy case, was granted bail today by the Supreme Court, which said “Every person has freedom of expression,” NDTV reported.
Siddique Kappan was arrested in October 2020 on his way to Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, where he said he was going to report on a 19-year-old’s gang-rape and murder. He was charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for alleged terror funding.
“The person (Kappan) has been in custody for two years,” the Chief Justice of India, UU Lalit, noted.
The court said the journalist has to report to the police in Delhi for the next six weeks and in Kerala after that, the report said.
He will be produced before a trial court in three days and he has to submit his passport, it added.
A reporter for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham, Siddique Kappan was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh police on the charge of trying to disturb law and order in Hathras. The police accused Kappan of having links with the Popular Front of India (PFI). Kappan has denied these charges and claimed that he was framed.
In court today, the Uttar Pradesh government argued that Kappan was paid to incite riots and that he is not even an accredited journalist, NDTV reported.
“He was trying to create a riot situation and use explosives. He belongs to the PFI and that is a terrorist organization,” said Mahesh Jethmalani, the lawyer for the UP government, adding that he had incriminating literature.
The Supreme Court questioned the evidence against Kappan. “What was found with Kappan? No explosives were found, the material was not found with him but in the car and they weren’t used for propagating,” Chief Justice Lalit said.
Kappan’s lawyer Kapil Sibal asked the prosecution to read what was in that literature.
“What material was dangerous? Is there any literature which shows anything damaging,” the Chief Justice asked.
Uttar Pradesh government argued that it was a “toolkit”, a word used by many to describe a guide to stirring an agitation or terror.
The judges said, “What you have shown in terms of literature doesn’t show anything.”
The UP government’s arguments in the Supreme Court mirror its 5,000-page charge sheet filed in 2021. During the previous hearing, the UP government had told the court that Kappan is part of a larger conspiracy to “incite religious discord and spread terror”.
The Hathras case drew massive outrage and protests over allegations that the state administration and the police were involved in a cover-up.
The young woman died days after she was gang-raped. Later, the UP police cremated her in the dead of night, in the absence of her family.
Recently, a video of Kappan’s nine-year-old daughter, talking about the “freedom and rights of ordinary citizens” at a school function, went viral on social media.
“I have the firm belief that my husband is innocent, and the 705 days have been extremely painful for the family,” said Raihana Kappan, Kappan’s wife.
Kappan is also facing a money-laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate. The Supreme Court said he could apply for bail in that case too.