Kerala journalist in jail for nine months
A Mathura court on Tuesday rejected the bail plea of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been in jail for nine months for various offences under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA.
In his bail order, Additional Sessions Judge Anil Kumar Pandey said considering the seriousness of evidence, the court didn’t deem it fit to release the accused on bail.
He noted that the charge against Mr. Kappan was that he, along with the co-accused, promoted enmity in society and affected communal harmony. The court also said that during the investigation, incriminating material was recovered from him and that he received foreign funding for damaging the integrity of the country.
The court further said though Mr. Kappan described himself as a journalist, the identity card found on him was that of a news organisation that had winded up its operations in 2018.
Mr. Kappan and three others were arrested on October 4, 2020 at Maant in Mathura district when heading towards Hathras village, where a Dalit girl was allegedly raped and murdered by four dominant-caste men.
They were initially booked for “breaching peace” but later UAPA was invoked as the U.P. police said they were trying to disrupt social harmony and incite communal riots.
On June 15, a local court in Mathura discharged Mr. Kappan and others of charges under sections 151, 107 and 116 of the CrPC as the police failed to complete the investigation in six months.
Describing the prosecution version as “highly improbable”, defence lawyer Wills Mathews said the petitioner was a journalist and was arrested while on his way to discharge his duties. “The applicant had done nothing beyond the ambit and scope of The Press Council Act, 1978,” he submitted. He reminded the court the petitioner was discharged of the offences that formed the basis of his arrest on October 5, 2020.
Mr. Mathews further said that the applicant was under detention for more than nine months. The chargesheet, filed on April 2, 2021 didn’t mention any independent witness.
“Even after eight months, a complete chargesheet was not served on the applicant. The applicant is entitled to default bail under the procedure established by law,” said Mr. Mathews, adding the allegation that Mr. Kappan was a member of Popular Front of India is incorrect. “Even otherwise PFI is not a banned organisation.”
On the specific allegations of money transaction in the chargesheet, Mr. Mathews said it mentioned transactions of ₹25,000 and ₹20,000 made on September 15, 2020 and October 4, 2020 respectively. “But in the pleadings and arguments, the state was always trying to dramatically connect Kappan with transactions worth crores, which is against the records of the case.” He said the accused used to earn the said amount every month from his profession.
Describing it as a fit case for bail, he said they would approach the Allahabad High Court.
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