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Malayalam journalist arrest: SC asks KUWJ to move ‘correct court’ for relief

He was detained by the Uttar Pradesh police while en route to Hathras

The Supreme Court on Monday advised the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) to approach the “correct court” for relief when informed that its secretary and journalist, Sidhique Kappan, has been arrested and charged with sedition.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde adjourned a habeas corpus petition filed by the KUWJ to know the whereabouts of Mr. Kappan, who was detained by the Uttar Pradesh police while en route to Hathras, where a 19-year-old Dalit girl died days after she was assaulted and allegedly raped.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for the KUWJ, submitted that “no court in Uttar Pradesh” will grant bail to Mr. Kappan. “A journalist will be in jail for six months”, Mr. Sibal said.

The CJI protested at this strain of thought from the petitioner side, saying the case could be brought before the Allahabad High Court.

Sibal’s plea

Mr. Sibal asked the court for permission to file a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution alleging violation of fundamental rights of a citizen at the hands of the State.

Mr. Sibal said Mr. Kappan’s arrest and the registration of an FIR for sedition and under the provisions of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act came shortly after the habeas corpus petition was filed in the apex court.

The journalist was kept incognito at the time of filing the habeas corpus in the Supreme Court.

The court adjourned the case by four weeks.

The petition, filed by advocate Shweta Garg and settled by advocate Wills Mathews, had arraigned the Centre, the U.P. government, the Director General of Police of U.P. and the Delhi Police Commissioner as respondents.

“Media is the breath of democracy. The ultimate of test of democracy is freedom of speech and expression”, the petition said.

It submitted that any denial of access to journalists to the place of news affects the fundamental right of ordinary citizens to gain information. Journalists require a “dignified and democratic working atmosphere”.

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