New Delhi: The Supreme Court on April 28, Wednesday, directed the Uttar Pradesh government to shift jailed journalist Siddique Kappan to a government hospital in Delhi for treatment.
A bench of Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, and Justices Surya Kant and A.S. Bopanna were hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists, which has been seeking the release of the journalist.
Kappan, a journalist who wrote for Malayalam-language publications, was held on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, where he sought to cover the brutal gang-rape and subsequent death of a young Dalit woman. He has been in jail since October 5, 2020, and has been booked under UAPA.
The KUWJ had on April 20 moved a plea in the Supreme Court seeking Kappan’s transfer to AIIMS citing medical emergency. The plea said that Kappan had collapsed in the bathroom with serious injuries and later tested positive for COVID-19.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had also written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath for his intervention.
The Supreme Court bench, on Wednesday, said that he has to be offered treatment at Delhi’s “Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital or AIIMS or any other government hospital” and said that he has to be returned to Mathura Jail after treatment.
According to LiveLaw, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who appeared for the Uttar Pradesh government, “vehemently opposed the shifting of Kappan to Delhi.”
SG held that Kappan was a “42-year-old COVID-negative person” and that he has to be accommodated in Delhi where “several thousands of COVID positive persons with comorbidities are finding it difficult to get hospital admission” is an “unjustified” direction.
He also cited that 50 Mathura Jail inmates were being treated for COVID-19 at Mathura hospital.
“I also know many bonafide mainstream journalists who are struggling with life due to COVID. Despite much efforts we could not get bed. I have been arguing from day one that this man has to go to competent court and apply for bail. Instead of doing that, he is fighting the case here coming under an association,” the SG said, according to LiveLaw.
“People with multiple organ failure are also being looked at by jail hospital in Mathura,” he said.
The bench said it was confined to the limited prayer of granting better health facilities to Kappan and asked whether he could be allowed medical treatment in Delhi.
“We are confined to health issue. It is in the interest of the state also that the accused gets better treatment,” the bench observed.
The SG also asked the bench to mention in its order that a hospital bed be vacated in Delhi for Kappan as the health care facilities are already full of patients. The apex court however declined to say anything on the issue.
The KUWJ has claimed that Uttar Pradesh Police’s claim about Kappan being the office secretary of Popular Front of India is false and incorrect, as he has been working as a journalist.
KUWJ has also alleged that Uttar Pradesh has filed a misleading affidavit, misrepresenting facts in order to justify their illegal and unlawful detention and malicious prosecution of Kappan and there are no materials to support the allegations against him.
On November 16 last year, the top court had sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea challenging his arrest.
The KUWJ has repeatedly alleged that Kappan has been jailed under inhuman conditions. In December, it said Kappan had been “beaten thrice and subjected to mental torture during custody”.
On April 24, 2021, the news portal THE WEEK reported that Kappan’s wife Raihanath had said that he has been denied the “basic human right to go to a toilet” and had been chained to the hospital bed.