Six months on, no justice for Siddique Kappan

Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan completed six months in custody on Wednesday and is locked up in a Mathura jail on stringent anti-terror charges. He was arrested in October 2020 while on his way to Hathras, Uttar Pradesh to report the gruesome rape and murder of a Dalit girl.

Earlier this month, the five-member team of the Special Task Force (STF) of Uttar Pradesh Police filed a 5,000-page chargesheet against eight members including Kappan of the Popular Front of India (PFI) in Mathura court.

Initially, the STF had arrested five PFI members including Siddique Kappan in Mathura on October 5, 2020, while they were on their way to Hathras allegedly to meet the family of the Dalit girl who was gang-raped in Boolgarhi village leading to nationwide outrage.

Neither Kappan’s lawyer nor his family have any clue about the contents of the chargesheet since it’s in Hindi. They are waiting for it to be translated into English.

The secretary of the Delhi unit of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Kappan is a retainer with the Malayalam news portal

It was the KUWJ that had filed the habeas corpus petition and assigned a Delhi-based lawyer to fight the case in the Supreme Court.

The FIR against Kappan, registered on 7 October in Mathura, charges him with Section 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli­gious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Information Technology Act.

Several attempts to secure bail for Kappan, including the filing of a habeas corpus petition and a bail application in the Supreme Court, have come to naught. In February, the court allowed Kappan to travel to Kerala for five days to see his ailing mother, with the stringent directive that he only interact with his mother and her doctor.

Kappan’s lawyers tried to move the Supreme Court under Art. 32 of the Constitution, to seek constitutional remedy for violation of fundamental rights. In May 2020, the Republic TV owner-editor Arnab Goswami had successfully used Art. 32 to seek quashing of multiple FIRs against him on charges of inflammatory statements and promoting enmity between religious groups (Section 153A of IPC). But when it came to Kappan’s case, the Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde said the court was discouraging citizens from approaching it with Art. 32 petitions.