The Supreme Court today allowed journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested en route to covering the Hathras gang-rape, to visit his ailing mother in Kerala for five days.
With a view to prevent Kappan from being paraded in public, the Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian ordered him not to give any interviews to any media including social media. Further, he shall not meet members of the public except his relatives.
The order was passed despite vehement objections by the Uttar Pradesh government, which cited Kappan’s alleged links to extremist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI), among other things, to oppose the plea.
Appearing on behalf of Kappan today, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal said,
“Mother could not talk in the video conferencing. The doctors have said she will be alive for the next two or three days.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta then said,
“The ground which is raised is tempting for even me to agree. Let me reply by tomorrow.”
To this, CJI Bobde replied,
“What is tempting in this? One wants to see his mother for last time.”
Mehta then claimed that the condition of Kappan’s mother was not as serious as was being projected. He went on to argue,
“There are posters in Kerala and the wife of Kappan is collecting money in his name as if he is a martyr. He is described as successor of Haji, someone who is responsible for a massacre. When he goes (to Kerala to visit his mother) political opinions would be formed etc.”
CJI Bobde then expressed his willingness to accept Sibal’s assurance that Kappan would not be so paraded. He went on to state,
“We will ensure he is not paraded, has an armed guard and only stays homes, does not give interviews and then comes back to jail again.”
The Court eventually ordered,
“…She (Kappan’s mother) is not likely to survive for long. In these circumstances we consider it appropriate to permit Siddique Kappan to visit his mother & return after 5 days…
SG states Kappan may be paraded in public and gather support for his activities which are otherwise against the law. We are of the view that in interest of justice sufficient safeguards can be imposed on detenue for the proposed visit.”
Kappan has been directed not to meet anyone except his relatives, doctors and anyone else connected with his mother’s health. The Kerala Police has been directed to coordinate with the Uttar Pradesh Police regarding these arrangements.
“It shall be responsibility of UP Police to ensure detenue travels to and from mothers house. The police in Kerala shall guard the house and not remain present when detenue meets his mother”, the Court ordered.
The Court was hearing an urgent application by Kerala Union for Working Journalists (KUWJ) seeking the release of journalist Siddique Kappan on interim bail for five days to meet his 90-year-old ailing mother, Kadija Kutty.
The application in the Supreme Court filed through Advocate Wills Mathews states that an earlier attempt to arrange a video conference with Kappan’s mother could not materialise as she was “weak and extremely sick at the scheduled time.”
The application was accompanied by a request to the Registrar General for early listing of the plea stating that the “days of the mother of the accused aged 90 in this world are limited as per medical opinion and it is her last wish to see her son, which she expressed repeatedly to her daughter in law Raihanath by broken words and signs in tears.”
KUWJ has further stated that Kappan’s mother is not in a health condition to identify her son or to talk to her son via video conference.
Earlier, when a Bench headed by CJI Bobde expressed inclination to allow the application of the ailing mother, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had urged the Court to leave it to the State of Uttar Pradesh.
Pursuant to the same, Mathura jail officials had arranged a 10-minute video call with the mother, but she could not look at the mobile screen and respond, as she was in hospital in a critical stage.
Kappan, a reporter for Malayalam news portal Azhimukham and secretary of the KUWJ’s Delhi unit, was arrested along with three others in Uttar Pradesh in October while on his way to Hathras to report on the gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl.
They were later booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and also slapped with charges of sedition.
Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh Police had informed the Supreme Court that Kappan was not cooperating and had refused to divulge details of his social media accounts, passwords etc. in a bid to “conceal his misdeeds”.
KUWJ had earlier told the Supreme Court that Kappan “was beaten with lathi and slapped” in Mathura jail, where he is lodged. It was also claimed by KUWJ that Kappan was denied sleep and medicines though he is a diabetic and on medication. Kappan was beaten up, dragged by the jail authorities and also subject to “mental torture,” the affidavit submitted by KUWJ added.