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New Delhi: The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on Thursday, August 4, rejected the bail application of journalist Siddique Kappan who was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in the Hathras conspiracy case.
A single bench of Justice Krishan Pahal passed the rejection order on Thursday. The detailed order is yet to be made available.
Earlier, the bench had reserved its order on Tuesday, August 2, after the conclusion of arguments by the counsels of the accused and the state.
Prior to that, a Mathura court in July 2021 had rejected Kappan’s bail plea after which he approached the high court.
Kappan, a reporter for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham and secretary of the Delhi unit of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), was arrested along with three others in Uttar Pradesh in October 2020 while on his way to Hathras to report on the gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman.
The police had claimed that the accused were trying to disturb the law and order in Hathras. They had also alleged that the accused had links with the Popular Front of India (PFI).
The woman died at a Delhi hospital a fortnight after her alleged rape by four men from her village on September 14, 2020. She was cremated in the middle of the night in her village.
Her family members claimed that the cremation, which took place well past midnight, was without their consent and that they were not allowed to bring home the body one last time.
Kappan and others were charged under Sections 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Section 124A (sedition), Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) of Indian Penal Code and Sections 65, 72 and 75 of the Information Technology Act.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists in a statement said it was “deeply disappointed” with the rejection of Kappan’s bail plea, adding that it will approach the Supreme Court.
“We are making all efforts to challenge the order before the honourable Supreme Court of India. 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,” the statement said.
The KUWJ statement also alleged that some of the findings of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court “seems to be in conflict with the norms of journalistic conduct issued by the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act of 1978”.
Kappan’s prolonged incarceration and the trials faced by his family during it have led to global condemnation and is often noted as a marker of India’s declining press freedom.
Last year, Kappan, while in jail, tested positive for COVID-19, which caused his health to seriously decline. The Supreme Court had then directed the Uttar Pradesh government to shift him to a government hospital in Delhi for treatment.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had also written to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath for his intervention.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists, which has advocated for Kappan, has repeatedly alleged that the journalist has been jailed under inhuman conditions. In December 2020, it has said Kappan had been “beaten thrice and subjected to mental torture during custody”.
(With PTI inputs)