Kappan has not been chained to hospital bed: U.P. Govt to top court
The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday refuted a contention in the Supreme Court that journalist Siddique Kappan, who has been jailed under the terror charges, was chained to a hospital bed in Mathura where he was being treated for Covid-19.
“He isn’t chained...there are no chains in the hospital,” claimed solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state government before a bench led by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana.
The law officer was responding to a claim by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) that Kappan was chained to a hospital bed in Mathura’s KM Medical College after he collapsed in a bathroom at the Mathura jail and later tested positive for COVID-19.
Kappan, secretary of the Delhi unit of KUWJ, was arrested on October 5 last year while on his way to Hathras in UP after the alleged gangrape of a 19-year-old woman who died in hospital of injuries she suffered in the sexual assault. KUWJ subsequently filed a petition in the apex court, calling Kappan’s arrest illegal and an attempt to silence the media.
On April 25, Kappan’s wife wrote to the CJI complaining that the scribe was “chained like an animal” to a hospital bed in Mathura and sought his release from the hospital.
On Tuesday, advocate Wills Mathew, representing KUWJ, sought transfer of Kappan from the UP hospital to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, citing his medical conditions and ill-treatment.
However, Mehta told the bench, which also included justices Surya Kant and AS Bopanna, that this plea could not be entertained since the habeas corpus petition by KUWJ was itself not maintainable. “This person has been in jail after a valid order of a trial court. All his co-accused approached the trial court for a regular bail but here we have one organisation asking for his release. An order of detention by a magistrate cannot be said to be illegal,” said Mehta.
The hearing could not proceed because of technical snags in the video-conferencing facility of the top court and the matter was adjourned to Wednesday. The bench has also asked the state government to file Kappan’s medical report.
In its affidavit before the court in December, the UP government sought to highlight Kappan’s alleged association with the now-banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the Popular Front of India, besides discrediting KUWJ. It maintained that Kappan was not a journalist nor was KUWJ a credible organisation while citing the former’s alleged links with the (SIMI) and PFI. The latter is not a banned outfit under the law. The affidavit contended that the Union filed its petition at the behest of SIMI and the PFI.