New Delhi: The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), in its rejoinder affidavit before the Supreme Court, has alleged that Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan was “beaten thrice and subjected to mental torture during custody”.
The rejoinder affidavit cited observations from a half-an-hour meeting between KUWJ lawyer Wills Mathews and Kappan in Mathura jail on November 21. It notes that Kappan “was beaten with lathi three times on his thigh, slapped three times after taking out the spectacles, dragged, forced to stay awake from 6 pm to 6 am depriving him of sleep, without proper medicines, along with serious mental torture from October 5 to October 6, 2020.”
According to the affidavit, Kappan who is “diabetic and is on medication was denied medicines, and was deprived of his right to sleep for the whole 6 pm on October 05 to 6 am on October 6, 2020, under the pretext of questioning”.
Speaking to The Wire, advocate Mathews confirmed that during the meeting Kappan told him that he was beaten and subjected to serious mental torture. It should be noted that the lawyer’s meeting with the Malayalam journalist was only made possible after an order by the apex court last month allowed lawyers to meet the accused. Earlier, when the lawyers representing the Union went to meet Kappan, they were denied permission.
Kappan, a Delhi-based journalists reporting for Malayalam portals and secretary of the KUWJ’s Delhi unit, was arrested along with three others in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh in October while on his way to cover the Hathras gangrape and murder case. He along with others were later booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and charges of sedition.
The KUWJ’s affidavit also denied the allegations made by the respondents (the government of Uttar Pradesh and director general of police, UP) that the accused is the office secretary of Popular Front of India (PFI), and called it “an absolute false and incorrect statement made by the respondent”.
The Uttar Pradesh government, in its affidavit before the Supreme Court last month, had made multiple claims about Kappan, including that he “is the office secretary of the PFI and has been using a ‘journalist cover’ and an identity card of a Kerala-based newspaper Tejas which was shut in 2018″. However, it has failed to provide any evidence of any wrongdoing or illegal act by him, let alone any offence that would attract the UAPA that he has been charged with.
“It is revealed during investigation that he along with other PFI activists and their student wing (Campus Front of India) leaders were going to Hathras under the garb of journalism with a very determined design to create a caste divide and disturb the law-and-order situation (and) were found carrying incriminating material,” the Uttar Pradesh government had claimed.
Requesting an immediate intervention by the apex court, the KUWJ has sought a judicial enquiry into the matter and release of the journalist. “The interest of justice and ends of justice requires that this Hon’ble court to appoint a retired Judge of the Supreme Court to conduct a “judicial enquiry” with a request to submit the report within 30 days, failing which, it will seriously affect the confidence of the people in the legal system,” notes the affidavit.
It further says, “In the meanwhile, interest of justice requires releasing the accused from illegal detention. There is nothing in the entire Constitution of India, that preventing this Hon’ble court in entertaining its original jurisdiction to ensure justice to the victim of false and mala fide case. A bare reading of the FIR reveals the fact that the ingredients of the offence is not made out and the accused is innocent.”
Kappan and the other journalists were charged 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 UAPA, and sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act. Later they were also named in the Hathras conspiracy case.