New Delhi: The Allahabad high court on Friday, December 23, granted bail to Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan – who was arrested in October 2020 while on his way to cover the Hathras gang-rape case in Uttar Pradesh – in a money laundering case.
On September 9, the Supreme Court granted him bail in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case, saying that “every citizen has the right to free expression”. However, he remained in jail in Lucknow in a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which was slapped against him by the Enforcement Directorate in 2021.
The Lucknow bench’s Friday order pertains to the second case.
Kappan’s counsel Md. Danish told The Wire that the Lucknow bench of the high court granted him bail without any conditions. However, he was still waiting for the order.
He added that the court has asked for two sureties for Kappan to be eligible for bail.
Since it was the last working day for the court this year, he said that Kappan will be in custody until at least January 2, when the court will reopen. He’ll then request the journalist’s release.
As the courts have granted him bail in both cases, he is most likely to walk out of prison after more than 26 months.
However, Danish said that the authorities have still not completed the mandatory verification of the surety, mentioned by the court, in the UAPA bail order.
He fears such red tape on the part of the state authorities can delay his release further.
Kappan was booked 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 Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act.
In response to the Supreme Court’s order, the UP government had opposed his bail alleging that he has “deep links” with the Popular Front of India, which is not a banned organisation.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court had earlier rejected Kappan’s bail application, saying the journalist had “no work” in Hathras. Kappan had challenged this order at the Supreme Court.