Siddique Kappan wanted to create “caste divide”, UP govt tells SC

Solicitor General says the State has no objection to lawyer meeting journalist Siddique Kappan in jail

The Uttar Pradesh government on Friday denied illegally confining Malayalam journalist Siddique Kappan and did not object to a lawyer meeting him in jail, but accused him of using the garb of journalism to create a “caste divide” in Hathras, where a 19-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly gang-raped by four upper-caste Hindu men recently.

Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that Mr. Kappan was arrested and remanded by a competent court.

“His bail plea was heard for nine days… His bail was rejected after nine days of hearing… they should approach the High Court. He is in judicial custody in pursuance of a valid judicial order passed by a court,” Mr. Mehta submitted.

KUWJ petition

He was responding to a petition filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) for the immediate release of Mr. Kappan. The union has said Mr. Kappan is its secretary. He, according to the KUWJ, was illegally detained while on his way to Hathras in October 5.

“You told us in the last hearing that you did not know where he was and you were not allowed to meet him… He [Mr. Mehta] is now saying he [Kappan] was duly produced before a court?” Chief Justice Bobde turned to ask senior advocate Kapil Sibal for the KUWJ.

Mr. Sibal responded, “But what is said in the FIR is ex-facie false… Whenever we went to the jail authorities, they would tell us to go get a judicial order… We want to meet this man… Let a lawyer go to meet him and get his signature for a vakalatnama”.

The CJI responded, “We will enable that for you.”

Mr. Mehta, in turn, said the State government had no objection to a lawyer meeting Mr. Kappan in jail to sign a vakalatnama.

The court recorded the statement made by the law officer.

“There was no objection and there is no objection”, Mr. Mehta emphasised.

‘Office secretary of PFI’

An 82-page affidavit filed by the senior superintendent of the Mathura District Jail, where Mr. Kappan is lodged, said he was “the office secretary of the Popular Front of India (PFI)”. The identity card he had shown was of a Kerala-based newspaper, Tejas, which was closed in 2018.

“It is revealed during the 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 law and order”, the affidavit said.

It said the accused were found carrying “incriminating material”. Mr. Kappan misled the investigators by giving the wrong residential address. “No family member of the accused has approached jail authorities till date for meeting the accused,” it stated.

The court gave the KUWJ time to study the affidavit. It scheduled a hearing next week.

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