Supreme Court grants bail to Siddique Kappan

NEW DELHI: Siddique Kappan, a Kerala journalist who has been detained for nearly two years and charged with violating the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, was released on bail by the Supreme Court on Friday, saying “everyone has the right to free expression.”

The “literature” seen in the vehicle Kappan was traveling to Hathras, where a Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped, at the time of her arrest on October 5, 2020 only promoted ideas like “the victim needs justice” and “let us be a common voice,” a bench headed by Chief Justice UU Lalit said orally.

Will this be considered a crime in the eyes of the law, Chief Justice Lalit asked?

“Judge S. Ravindra Bhat and Judge PS Narasimha, who sat on the bench, recalled how protests at India Gate in 2012 prompted revisions to rape legislation. now you [Uttar Pradesh] didn’t show anything aggressive. Sometimes protests are necessary to expose defects.

Lead attorney Mahesh Jethmalani, speaking on behalf of the state, said Kappan was an “agent provocateur” for the Indian Popular Front, a “terrorist group”. He was paid off and sent to Hathras to stir up trouble.

The court questioned Jethmalani to find out if information on “Justice for Hathras” suggested that Kappan was traveling to Hathras to cause riots. He asked if any bombs had been discovered inside the car. The state gave a negative response. The Chief Justice summed up: “So at best what you can say is that this man was driving a car with three other people when you stopped him on the Yamuna highway, and there was literature inside the car.”

“This is not about prosecution, but about persecution,” lead attorney Kapil Sibal and attorney Haris Beeran pleaded on behalf of Kappan. The court ruled that the materials used by Uttar Pradesh as a “toolkit” to “incite riots” were linked to a “foreign country”, notwithstanding Sibal’s claims to the contrary. “The man spent more than two years in prison. Is there a chance that the investigation will come to some kind of conclusion soon? The CJI questioned the State.

Although the charge sheet was submitted in April 2021, it was noted that no charges have yet been filed. According to Jethmalani, the delay was caused by a change of approver, and it will be completed in two months. “We will bail Jethmalani,” the chief justice said. The court injunction prohibits commenting on the outcome of the investigation or the evidence used to support Kappan’s lawsuit.

He ordered him to appear in the magistrates’ court in three days in order to be released on bail. A habeas corpus petition had been pending for more than six months when Siddique Kappan’s wife Raihanth requested his release in a letter to Chief Justice NV Ramana in November last year. Supreme Court ruling upholding ‘right to free speech’ makes it the most important story of the day at a time when dissident activists and journalists face arrest for reporting and speaking out their opinions.

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