The Supreme Court on Monday declined to pass any interim relief in the habeas corpus plea filed on behalf of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan who was arrested on his way to cover the Hathras case, less than a week after it granted interim bail to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Republic TV.
The court was hearing the habeas corpus petition against the journalist’s arrest, which called the action illegal and unconstitutional. The petition had been filed in the apex court by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) soon after Kappan had been picked up by the police on 5 October.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing KUWJ, requested the court to grant Kappan bail as he had been in jail since 5 October, without there being any details of what he was accused of. “There is no mention of him in the FIR,” he told the court, adding that “This is a journalist, otherwise we would not be approaching the Supreme Court asking for relief under Article 32.”
CJI Bobde said that the court was trying to discourage Article 32 writ petitions being filed for such matters in the Supreme Court, and wanted such matters to go to the relevant high courts first. Although he agreed to issue notice after Sibal hinted at how Arnab Goswami’s case was dealt with last week, he indicated that the court may still direct KUWJ to go to the Allahabad High Court for relief.
Sibal then asked for Kappan to be granted interim bail in the meanwhile given how long he has spent in jail, and without any explanation of the case against him. CJI Bobde agreed to list the matter on Friday, 20 November, when UP’s state counsel will get a chance to respond.
Kappan’s situation was raised in the Supreme Court, at the end of its urgent hearing of Arnab Goswami’s plea for interim bail. Kapil Sibal, who was representing the Maharashtra Government in that case, noted to the bench that “A Kerala journalist was arrested by UP Police when was going to Hathras to report. We came to this court under Article 32. The court said go to lower court. The petition was posted after four weeks. Such things are also happening.”
During the hearing of Goswami’s case by a vacation bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indira Banerjee, remarked that constitutional courts should step in when there is an attempt to “nail” the personal liberty of Indian citizens and that it would be a “travesty of justice” if Goswami and the other accused in that case didn’t get bail, given the kind of case against them for abetment of suicide.
Kappan, a freelance journalist, was arrested on his way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, along with three others on 5 October by the UP Police’s Special Task Force. On 7 October, they were booked for sedition under the Indian Penal Code and under Section 17 of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.