SC relief for journalist Siddique Kappan, gets bail to visit ailing mother
The Supreme Court on Monday allowed jailed journalist Siddique Kappan to travel to Kerala with a police escort to meet his ailing 90-year-old mother and return within five days. During his stay in Kerala, Kappan has been prohibited from giving any interview to any media organization, including social media, and will not be permitted to meet members of the public other than his relatives, doctors and persons connected with his mother’s health.
Kappan is currently lodged at Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura jail following his arrest by the state police on October 5 last year while on his way to cover the gang-rape and death of a Dalit girl in Hathras. The police accused him of being an active member of the radical Islamic organization Popular Front of India (PFI).
Based on material seized from him, the police charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Lately, Kappan is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate over alleged money laundering.
An application was moved on behalf of Kappan in a pending petition heard by the Supreme Court by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ). The organization told the top court that Kappan’s mother was on her death bed with doctors having given up hope of her survival. On an earlier date, arrangements were made at Mathura Jail to enable Kappan speak with his mother through videoconferencing. The mother was not in a position to talk.
The prayer was opposed by the UP government, which sought time to reply to the application. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state, said: “The mother (of Kappan) is not as serious as is being projected. It is really unfair for the petitioner to use mother’s ill-health as a ground to visit Kerala. A campaign is going on there at full swing and money is being collected in his name as if he is a martyr. Big posters are out and he will be paraded in public as if he is being penalized for being a freedom fighter.”
Mehta requested the Court not to go by the emotional appeal of the petitioner.
The three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde said: “This is not fair. We are willing to take the risk. This is the last opportunity for a person to see his mother. We are taking his request on face value and at the moment will consider it as truth. Howsoever a man, he is not likely to lie about his mother’s death . And if so, we will disbelieve him for all times to come in the future.”
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for KUWJ, told the court that the application raised a humanitarian plea and the state should not stand in the way. “Doctors have given up. No more drugs are being advised for the mother. They say, she may not be alive beyond the next few days.”
To balance concerns of the state and the KUWJ, the court ordered: “We consider it appropriate to permit the prisoner, Siddique Kappan to visit his mother and return to the prison at the end of the fifth day after he is allowed to travel.”
During this period, he will only see his ailing mother, not give any interview to any media including social media, not meet members of the public (except relatives, doctors or anybody in connection with his mother’s health), and shall be escorted by a team of officers of the Uttar Pradesh police, according to the order by the bench, also comprising justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
Sibal requested privacy when Kappan meets his mother at home. To facilitate this, the bench directed the police escort team to stay guard outside and not go inside the house. The bench indicated that this order “will not prejudice any contentions raised by the solicitor general” with regard to the pending matter filed by KUWJ challenging Kappan’s detention.