Hathras Conspiracy Case: Driver Arrested With Siddique Kappan Gets Bail

The Allahabad high court said no incriminating material was recovered from the possession of Mohammad Alam. He is the first out of the eight accused in the conspiracy case to be granted bail.

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New Delhi: Almost 23 months after his arrest, Mohammad Alam, a cab driver from north Delhi arrested in the Hathras conspiracy case, was granted bail on August 23 by the Allahabad high court.

Out of the eight accused, Alam is the first to be granted bail in the case. On October 5, 2020, Alam was arrested along with Siddique Kappan, a journalist from Kerala, and Atiqur Rehman and Masood, two activists of the Campus Front of India (CFI), a Muslim students’ organisation. The three men were headed to Hathras village in Uttar Pradesh where Kappan had planned to report on the case of a Dalit woman who had been gang-raped and murdered by Thakur caste men.

The Lucknow bench granted bail to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA)-accused Alam on Tuesday, arguments for which had concluded before the court on August 11. The court reserved its order that day.

According to LiveLaw, Justice Ramesh Sinha and Justice Saroj Yadav granted bail because they found no complicity and involvement of “the appellant with the terrorist activities or any other activity against the nation”.

The court also distinguished his case from that of co-accused Kappan, observing that “while incriminating material was allegedly recovered from Kappan’s possession, no such incriminating material was recovered from the possession of Alam”.

“Admittedly, no such incriminating material was recovered from the possession of the present accused-appellant,” the court said, according to LiveLaw.

‘Our prayers worked’ 

“I still can’t believe it, I have been praying for two years now to hear this news,” says Bushra, Alam’s wife. Bushra and Alam’s family say they now know the law better than any of their relatives. Bushra explains that she was not aware of her husband’s arrest until she watched a news telecast named Alam as one of four people arrested at Maant, Uttar Pradesh.

“I know UAPA like the back of my hand now, I may never understand any other law, like I have understood this one, despite being educated only till Class X; they have misused it in this case,” says Bushra.

Bushra said when she met Alam in prison, he had shrunken in size and nature. She alleges that prison dulled his smile, robbed his hope and made him accept the “injustice of the situation”.

Challenges in court

Upon arrest, Alam, had been charged under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for breaching public peace and tranquillity and days later, he and his three passengers were charged with two offences under the UAPA as well as several offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Information Technology (IT) Act and jailed. The case has also been transferred between several police departments, leading to a series of investigative delays.

Speaking to The Wire, Alam’s counsel Saifan Shaikh said that since the beginning of the case, their stand has been that Alam is not connected to any conspiracy alleged by the UP police. Shaikh explained that the counsel had always argued that Alam was merely a taxi driver and did not know any of the co-accused apart from his brother-in-law Danish, who had referred Alam to Rehman for the driving job, and had no links with the Popular Front of India (PFI) or CFI.

“Alam was only ferrying passengers to a location, like a normal driver, for a fare of Rs 2,400,” explained Shaikh. He said that the prosecution questioned how Alam was able to raise Rs 2.5 lakh during the COVID-19 lockdown to purchase the cab. “The cab was purchased by his relative, but only the agreement was in his name. Alam only had some Rs 17,000 in his account when his transactions were questioned,” Shaikh said.

The biggest challenge the counsel had to face while pursuing Alam’s bail was that the courts were frequently changed. Initially tried in Mathura, then transferred to Lucknow special court, because of which the counsel had to begin filing their petitions from scratch at the new court which was designated to hear the case. This, the counsel said, delayed Alam’s release.

Shaikh also explains that the UAPA, particularly section 43 (D)(5) is draconian and made it especially difficult to secure bail for Alam.

Journalist Siddique Kappan. Photo: PTI

Co-accused continue to face obstacles

Earlier this month, the Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court rejected the bail application of Siddique Kappan, arrested under UAPA and sedition charges.

Another accused in the case, Rauf Sheriff had on August 2, urged the PMLA Court, seeking permission to write his examination for MA (Political Science) from inside the prison. Hearing the petition, the court directed the jail authorities to do the needful as per the rules. 

Later, the jail authorities replied that there was no such provision in the jail manual. Hence, they were unable to facilitate him to take the exam. Then for the same, Sheriff filed a writ petition before the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court and was allowed to take the examination. Advocates Amarjeet Singh Rakhra, Bashith Muni Mishra, Sheeran Mohiuddin Alavi and Saifan Shaikh appeared for both Alam and Sheriff.