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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, August 29, sought response from the Uttar Pradesh government by September 5 on the bail plea of Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan.
Kappan was arrested in October 2020 while on his way to report from Hathras where a Dalit teenager had died after allegedly being gang-raped by ‘upper’ caste Thakur men. Uttar Pradesh police filed an FIR under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, against four persons.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court had earlier this month rejected Kappan’s bail application. The court had said Kappan had “no work” in Hathras.
Kappan had challenged this order at the Supreme Court. His plea, on being mentioned for an urgent hearing, was directed to be listed on August 26 by former Chief Justice N.V. Ramana last week.
A bench comprising new Chief Justice, Uday Umesh Lalit, and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat fixed the plea for final disposal on September 9.
“Reply to be filed by September 5 and rejoinder in 3 days. Matter will be disposed off on September 9,” the bench ordered, according to Bar and Bench.
In his plea, Kappan argues that his plea had been rejected by the high court without citing proper reasons.
Kappan’s prolonged incarceration and the trials faced by his family during this time have led to global condemnation and is often noted as a marker of India’s declining press freedom.
Last year, Kappan. had tested positive for COVID-19 and developed serious health complications. 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 in ensuring treatment for Kappan.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists, which has advocated for Kappan since his arrest, has repeatedly alleged that the journalist has been jailed under inhuman conditions. In December 2020, it said Kappan had been “beaten thrice and subjected to mental torture during custody”.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on August 23, meanwhile, granted bail to taxi driver Mohammad Alam, one of the accused booked under the UAPA along with Kappan.