Siddique Kappan Arrest: CJI Says Supreme Court Is 'Discouraging Article 32 Petitions'

In May, Republic TV owner-editor Arnab Goswami got relief from the court in an Article 32 petition.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has issued notice and sought the response of the Uttar Pradesh government in connection with a petition seeking the release of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been under detention since October 5. The matter has been posted for hearing on Friday, November 20.

The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has filed a habeas corpus petition before the apex court challenging the detention of Kappan, who was arrested on his way to Hathras by the UP police days after the death of a Dalit teenager from Hathras that kicked up a storm across the country. He was arrested along with three other persons and has been charged with sedition and several sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).

Kapil Sibal, who is appearing on behalf of the petitioner KUWJ, told the court that Kappan  is not being allowed to meet his lawyers, LiveLaw has reported.

The bench headed by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde asked Sibal why he hadn’t approached the Allahabad high court instead of moving the Supreme Court.

Sibal responded by saying that Kappan is not being allowed to meet his lawyers and family members. The petition has also pointed out that the case has not progressed at the high court.

Recalling the earlier hearing of the matter at the apex court on October 12, Bobde asked if they have been able to file an amended petition as directed in the previous hearing. During that hearing, the apex court has also expressed its disinclination to admit the habeas corpus petition and instead asked the petitioners to move the high court.

“We could not meet the gentleman. How do we amend? We have filed an affidavit to this effect,” Sibal responded.

The court then said it would issue notice to the UP government and directed it to be present for the next hearing on Friday.

Also read: Police Name Kerala Journalist Siddique Kappan in Hathras ‘Conspiracy’ Case

At the same tone, CJI Bobde said that the court has been discouraging people from approaching it with Article 32 petitions, which refer to a redressal mechanism in instances where the fundamental rights of individuals are violated.

Sibal responded by saying there had been a spate of such Article 32 petitions filed before the apex court, that these are “exceptional circumstances” and that a journalist continues to be in jail, requesting the court to be considerate.

Among those who have successfully pressed an Article 32 petition in the apex court is the Republic TV owner-editor Arnab Goswami, who sought the quashing of various FIRs filed against him in May. These included multiple FIRs in different states stemming from a controversial programme on the Palghar mob lynching as well as one on Republic’s coverage of the crowds that had gathered outside Bandra railway station in Mumbai during the lockdown in which the channel had allegedly insinuated that a mosque had played a role in the gathering.

KUWJ has challenged Kappan’s detention claiming violation of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the constitution.

Meanwhile, India Today has reported that a Mathura court on Friday rejected the bail pleas of three persons booked along with Kappan on their way to a Hathras. Additional district judge Mayur Jain rejected the bail pleas of Atiqur Rahman, Aalam and Masood saying that since the charges against the accused are serious, they cannot be let off on bail at the current juncture when the investigation into the case is still on.

Note: This story has been edited to remove the incorrect claim, attributed to Kapil Sibal, that the FIR does not mention Siddiq Kappan’s name.