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PFI activist Siddique Kappan tried to create communal tension in Hathras, UP tells SC

Dismissing claims of illegal detention of Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, the Uttar Pradesh Government, on Friday, told the Supreme Court that he was a PFI activist who attempted to create caste, communal tension in Hathras.

“The person in custody — Siddique Kappan — is the Office Secretary of the Popular Front of India (PFI) and is using a journalist cover by showing identity card of a Kerala-based newspaper ‘Tejas’, which was closed in 2018,” the UP government states in its affidavit.

An affidavit has been filed in response to a petition by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) challenging the October 5 arrest of Kappan while on his way to Hathras to cover the death of a Dalit woman who died after allegedly being gang-raped.

It said all legal requirements relating to arrest of the accused were fulfilled and his family members were also duly informed about his arrest. He was presented before a court and was currently in judicial custody.

“It is revealed during the investigation, he, along with other PFI activists and their student wing (Campus Front of India) leaders, was going to Hathras under the garb of journalism with a very determined design to create a caste divide and disturb law and order situation, and were also found carrying incriminating material,” the affidavit stated.

“When he was brought by the STF to Delhi, he misled the police by a residential address, which was later found invalid. He did not assist in the investigation and gave misleading details. His flatmate, who is also a member of the PFI and its various wings, was denied access. Finally, armed with search warrants, when the premises were searched by the police, further incriminating material was recovered, all of which is the subject matter of investigation as stated hereunder,” UP government told the top court.

A Bench led by CJI SA Bobde expressed displeasure over inaccurate reporting of its previous proceedings that it had refused relief in the case.

It asked senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the KUWJ, to peruse the UP government’s affidavit and adjourned the hearing to next week.

The Bench recorded the state government’s statement that there was no objection to an advocate approaching Kappan to obtain his signature for a ‘vakalatnama’ to represent him in court.

“There was no objection and there is no objection,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the top court.

Mehta said the accused had been in touch with lawyers.

The UP government affidavit said: “That during the judicial custody of accused Sidhique Kappan, on his written requests, he has interacted with his family members on three occasions on phone on November 2, 10 and 17. It is pertinent to note that accused Sidhique Kappan has never requested to meet any relative or any lawyer nor has file any such application before the competent court or jail Authorities to date.”

Questioning locus standi of the KUWJ, the UP government urged the top court to dismiss the petition.

The Supreme Court had on November 16 issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government to respond to the KUWJ petition challenging Kappan’s arrest.

The rape-cum-murder case is being probed by the CBI. After the September 14 incident, the 19-year-old woman had died on September 29 at Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital during treatment and her body was cremated at night near her home on September 30.

The Bench had posted the matter for hearing on Friday even as it wondered why the KUWJ did not approach the Allahabad High Court and directly came to it.

Sibal had sought bail for the Kappan, saying: “The FIR does not name him. No offences alleged. He has been in jail since October 5.”

Earlier, the top court had said it would hear the plea after four weeks and in the meantime, the petitioner could approach the Allahabad high court for the relief.