The Uttar Pradesh government informed the Supreme Court on Friday that an advocate can meet Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan, arrested on his way to Hathras where a young Dalit woman had died after allegedly being gang-raped, in jail to take “instructions and signature” for representing him in courts of law.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was critical of some media reports of November 16 and termed them “unfair”, observing that they said that the apex court denied relief to the journalist.
“There was very unfair reporting about our earlier order. It was said that we denied you relief,” said the bench which also comprised Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.
“Last time there was misreporting. I am worried about the inaccurate reporting,” the CJI said, adding, “The reports said that the journalist was refused relief”.
There has been so much misreporting and the court should take note of it, said senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ).
During the brief hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, opposed the KUWJ contention that Kappan was denied meeting with his lawyers and family members and as a consequence, he could not approach the Allahabad high court for the relief.
The law officer said the meeting was not denied earlier also and even now, the lawyer can go and meet him in jail.
“Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General further states that the Advocate can meet the accused in the Jail where he is lodged to take instructions and the signature in the 'vakalatnama'. This statement is recorded and it is ordered accordingly,” the bench said in its order.
It then listed the case for hearing after one week and asked the registry to verify the filing of counter affidavit by the Uttar Pradesh government in the case.
He said that the the plea would be heard completely and asked Sibal, counsel for the journalists union, to file the rejoinder in the meantime.
The state government, in its affidavit filed on Friday, said that Kappan was going to Hathras under the “garb of journalism” with a “very determined design” to create caste divide and disturb law and order situation.
On November 16, the top court had sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea challenging the arrest of the journalist on his way to Hathras.
Sibal had sought bail for the scribe saying that there was nothing against the journalist in the FIR lodged at Mathura by Uttar Pradesh police.
The FIR has been filed under various provisions of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against four people having alleged links with the Popular Front of India, or PFI.
PFI had been accused in the past of funding protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act across the country earlier this year.
Kappan was arrested on October 5 while he was on his way to Hathras, home to the young Dalit woman who died after being gang-raped, allegedly by four upper-caste men.
The union had filed a habeas corpus petition in the top court against the arrest of the journalist and it also sought his immediate production and release from “illegal detention”.
The police, however, had said it has arrested four people having links with the Popular Front of India in Mathura and identified the arrested persons as Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur.
Hours after the arrest, the prominent journalist body of Kerala identified Malappuram native Siddique by his full name as Siddique Kappan, saying he is a senior Delhi-based journalist.
The plea stated that the arrest was made in violation of the mandatory guidelines laid down by the apex court and with the sole intention of obstructing the discharge of duty by a journalist.
The petition alleged that family members or colleagues have not been informed of his arrest.
Hathras has been in the news following the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped on September 14, 2020, in a village in the district.
Her cremation at night by the authorities, allegedly without the parents' consent, has triggered widespread outrage.