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Tue. Oct 4th, 2022
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NEW DELHI: Almost two years after he was arrested by UP police, while on way to cover the gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Hathras, and charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for allegedly planning to incite violence, the Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan while underscoring that “every citizen has the right to free expression”.
A bench of CJI U U Lalit and Justices S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha ordered he be released within three days on conditions to the satisfaction of the trial court. The SC passed the order after telling the state, “So till now, you have not shown anything (against Kappan) that was provocative.”
It directed Kappan to deposit his passport in the trial court and asked him to remain in Delhi for six weeks to cooperate in the probe after which he could shift to Kerala.
Responding to the court’s query on what material was found from the accused at the time of arrest and whether those materials were provocative to foment violence, the UP government said only ‘toolkit pamphlets’ were found from the car he was travelling in.
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the state, contended that the toolkit contained procedures on how to handle, protest and incite violence. Reading out the documents, he said it contained instructions including on how to protect oneself during riots, how to escape tear gas shelling by police. But the court, after going through it, said it was something which was taken from a foreign country and not related to India and it talked about Black people.
The court said the pamphlet also talked about justice for Hathras gang rape victim and fighting for that cause could not be a crime. “See every person has the right to free expression and therefore he is trying to propagate an idea that there is this victim who requires justice and therefore let us raise a common voice. Is that something like a crime in the eyes of law?” the bench asked.
The bench also referred to massive protests held in Delhi in 2012 in support of Nirbhaya and said, “Similar protests were held in 2012, you must remember at the India Gate. After that, there was a change in law. Sometimes these protests are necessary to highlight that there is a deficiency somewhere. So till now you have not shown anything which was provocative.”
Jethmalani said police had recorded the statements of some PFI operatives who admitted that Kappan was part of the group which was asked to incite violence in the state in the name of caste and religion. He also said that the journalist was paid Rs 45,000 and was using two identity cards.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing Kappan, said his client was not prosecuted but persecuted by the state and the ‘toolkit’ was not even found from his possession but from a car in which three other people were also travelling. He said the toolkit was related to “Black Lives Matter” movement in the US and not to the Hathras case.
The court after hearing both the sides granted relief to Kappan, saying the alleged offensive literature claimed by the state in the form of toolkit was not showing anything. It, however, made it clear that the court was not expressing any opinion on the merit of the case and its observations were confined to the bail plea.
Kappan was arrested on October 5, 2020 while on his way to Hathras to report on the gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl.
“The appellant shall be taken to the trial court within three days and shall be released on bail on conditions as deemed fit by the trial court…It shall be the condition of bail that the appellant shall stay within the jurisdiction of Nizamuddin area in Delhi for six weeks,” the bench said. “The appellant shall not misuse the liberty and shall not get in touch with any of the persons connected with the controversy,” it said.

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