New Delhi: The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has filed an application in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to urgently hear the bail petition of Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan. The petition also asks that Kappan be allowed regular video calls with his family members and lawyers. “The application was filed by us last week and it is likely to be listed for hearing tomorrow (November 6),” KUWJ lawyer Wills Mathews told The Wire.
“The petitioner is left with no other alternative effective remedy other than filing the present application as the applicants nor their lawyer could not meet the accused for conference and for getting the vakalatnama signed and are totally in the dark about the accused as no contacts, information about the accused after his arrest on 05.10.2020,” notes the petition.
Kappan, a Delhi-based Malayalam-language journalist and secretary of the KUWJ’s Delhi unit, was arrested along with three others in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh last month while on his way to cover the Hathras gang-rape and murder case. He along with others were later booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and charges of sedition.
According to an FIR lodged against them, they were charged under Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (for promoting enmity between groups) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the Indian Penal Code, Sections 14 and 17 of UAPA, and Sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act. Later they were also named in the Hathras conspiracy case.
His arrest was widely condemned by the journalistic fraternity and KUWJ had immediately filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court. When the lawyers representing the Union went to meet Kappan in the Mathura jail for gathering more information on the case, they were denied permission.
“There are no justiable grounds to reject the application of the counsel for the petitioner to meet the accused, and the said order violates fundamental rights of the Detenue and is against the spirit of rule of law,” the Union’s plea states.
The Wire had earlier reported that KUWJ brought to the notice of the chief judicial magistrate that after the Kappan’s arrest, his mother, Kadija Kutty, aged 90, and his wife, Raihana, and children were totally in dark about the reasons for his arrest, and wanted to talk to him over the phone. He was not allowed to talk to them earlier.
The KUWJ in its petition also states, “The members of the Petitioner organisation are also scared to discharge their duty as a journalist /media professionals independently and impartially, and now even to visit the Detenue in Mathura jail, as the arrest of the Detenue was without complying the guidelines of this Hon’ble court in D. K Basu v. State of West Bengal and subsequent directions of this Honble Court on this issue.”
According the petitioner, “The present case has witnessed a complete denial of the fundamental rights of the Detenue, from the act of rejecting the oral request of the lawyer of the Petitioner for meeting the client and to get the vakalatnama signed at the time of production before the Ld. CJM, Mathura on 06.10.2020 to the act of rejecting the proper application of the lawyer and the officials of the petitioner for an interview with the Detenue, despite annexing the Order dated12.10.2020 passed by this Hon’ble Court in the present writ petition.”
The petition also notes, “Over and above these violations, the horrific conditions of the prisoners in the New Temporary jail of Mathura even without basic security measures against the COVID-19 virus, amounts to a serious denial of their fundamental rights.”
Citing Kappan’s mother’s old age (90 years) and family and children’s inability to travel to Mathura from Kerala, due to the COVID-19 virus, KUWJ has asked permission for regular video conference meetings of the Malayalam journalist with his family members and lawyers.
“No opportunity for video-conferencing was allowed and the request for e-Mulakat under the ePrisons system was also rejected. These family members are totally dependent on the Detenue and have no other earning member of the family to take care of them. The mother of the accused is seriously sick and her illness is only augmented by the fear for the safety of the Detenue,” notes the petition.
The KUWJ has also said that Kappan suffers from severe diabetes and needs timely medicines, a special diet and special exercises, failing which his life is in danger.