Siddique Kappan a journalist apprehended and
charged in 2020, receives bail by Supreme Court after nearly spending 680 days
After a drawn-out trial, Siddique Kappan sees daylight as he is set free on
bail. Wrongfully Incarcerated under draconian laws Sedition and UAPA,(Unlawful
Activites Prevention Act) whose continuality is itself in question.
Moreover, Was The Detention Of The Reporter Justified?
The whole thing started back in late 2020 in October when 42-year-old journalist
Siddique Kappan was arrested in Mathura, U.P. There has been a prolonged battle
going on for freedom of speech and expression of Journalists, consequently they
are the most vulnerable in this matter. Kappan was caught in a whirlwind when he
went to report the Dalit girl's case to Hathras and was charged along with three
others under Sections 124A (sedition), 295A (outraging religious sentiments),
120B (criminal conspiracy) 153A (promoting enmity) of the IPC.
And Articles 14,
17 and 18 of the UAPA and Articles 65, 72 and 76 of the IT Law also apply.
Furthermore, the present case is an unfortunate example of human rights abuses
and strangulation of the press. While this case has at least gained attention in
the media, many others are still caught in the loop of a constant struggle over
appearing in court and applying for bail. A trial that goes on continuously
without determining neither the guilt nor innocence of the accused is itself a
punishment. The wound to the life and freedom of a citizen, deepens every day
that relief is not given without reason.
This case Kerala Union of Working
Journalists v. Union of India
is a prime example of unwarranted imposition of
draconian laws such as UAPA and seduction without reasonable proof of convict's
provocation. These laws could be problematic because they give the police
unrelenting power as in the solicitation or when UAPA is charged, bail is an
Many journalists choose to stay shut or rather effortlessly side with the
government on many matters. However, the ones belonging to smaller regions
working independently continue to perform their jobs and are more vulnerable to
political and legal pressure or wrongful detention. The 'Chilling Effect' is the
talk of the hour as it has been a significant roadblock in stress free and
Siddique Kappan, a 42-year-old journalist from Kerala, was one of the many
journalists who were detained in the year . He along with 3 others were
apprehended in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, in October 2020, along. They were charged
with Sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity), 295A (outraging
sentiments) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and Articles 14, 17 and 18
of the UAPA and Articles 65, 72 and 76 of the IT Law were also imposed. The rape
and murder of a young Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh was the centre of
chaos and agitation. Kappan got arrested by the police when he was enroute to
cover the incident.
The police prepared a 5000 page long chargesheet and very conveniently mentioned
that Kappan along with his colleagues was headed to Hathras to incite unrest and
enmity and the police accused him of links with the extremist Islamist
organisation, People Front of India(PFI) and collecting funds for the same.
Ironically , PFI itself disproved any relationship with him.
The chairman of PFI O M A Salam issued a statement saying:
"The charges against Kappan were fabricated and that the UP police had been
obstructing his bail to deflect public outrage from the gang rape that had taken
place in the Hathras district."
A day after the arrest, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), of which
Kappan , filed a writ petition of habeas corpus under Article 32 in the Supreme
Court seeking bail for his wrongful detention. Press club of India issued a
"In these circumstances, our worry is that UP Police may not fight shy of using
anti-terrorism provisions with which to charge the Kerala journalist."
The whole case is pinned or relied upon a police confession, which ironically
under Section 25 of the Evidence Act which itself is inadmissible in the court
of law. The prosecution's argument revolves around Kappan's presumable links
with the PFI, protests for the anti-CAA and his intention to instigate unrest in
The case of the detenu took a speedy way forward when the apex court took
cognizance of it in the past November. This case presents an unfortunate example
of grave injustice at the hands of judicial system, the very foundation i.e
violation of human rights violation to the extent of wrongful detention of the
The basic doctrine of justice states that the accused to be believed "innocent
until proven guilty
." However, once the UAPA is applied, the burden of proof is
reversed. The same applies to this case. ordinarily initial stage before the
beginning of the defendant's trial is for the arresting officer to put together
a memo stating the date and time of the arrest, which needs to be attested by
the family member of the accused, or by the respected member of the locality,
according to amendment 41B of CrPC but the family members of the detenu didn't
knew about the detention until after 2 days, this delay and unprofessional
outlook is unaccounted for.
D.K Basu v. State of West Bengal and Ors
is a landmark judgement that laid out
guidelines on the rights of arrested persons along with the regulation by CrPC.
The article 21 is an absolute right granted to every person even under trial
with many other rights such as protection form inhumane treatment, right to meet
their lawyers and fellowmen. Herein the detenu was kept incommunicado for
several days, contemplating everyone to concur the incompetence of officials in
Critical Analysis Of Sedition And UAPAUAPA
The Unlawful activites prevention act came into force to provide for more
effective prevention of unlawful activities of personnel, ironically the State
has been using it as a tool to supress public dissent against it and are
criticised over the years for using UAPA act (1967) According to the section 14
of UAPA act:
"Notwithstanding anything contained in the provision 1, an offence
punishable under this Act shall be "cognizable" which is often misused to
apprehend the presumable suspects.
Moreover, these Acts has reduced the burden of proof for establishing Mens Rea
of the accused conducting an unlawful activity. It only needs to show that the
individual is "probable" to terrorize the public. In the case Angela Harish
Sontakke v. State of Maharashtra
court rendered bail to the petitioner stating
that the alleged offence must be balanced against how swiftly the trial went and
how long he has been in jail because if there was any further delay, then the
rights under Article 21 of the accused would be violated, and bail would have to
be granted. Nevertheless Kappan had been suffering behind the bars for so long
amidst the trial.
In State of Kerala v. Raneef ( 2011)
the Supreme Court upheld the grant of bail
to a person accused of UAPA offences, for being a member of the Muslim group
"Popular Front of India". Evidence brought upon included "certain documents,
C.D.s, mobile phone, a book called `Jihad'."
The Court noted that there was no
prima facie evidence against the accused to deny the bail under S. 43(D)(5). In
the present case the defence counsel built case upon the similar facts that the
"literature" found in the car contained messages like 'Justice for Hathras' and
"images to ignite feelings" which should not be considered as a prima facie
Sedition (124a IPC)
Sedition is the language intended to incite insurrection against the governing
authority. The constitutional validity of the provision have been controversial
since its enactment in our constitution.
It goes back as early as 1950's when
the Supreme Court in Romesh Thapar v State of Madras
disaffection for government arising out of criticism, will not to be regarded as
a qualifying ground for restricting the freedom of expression of the press,
unless it has intention to undermine the security or to overthrow the state."
Soon after this judgement Punjab and Haryana High Court in Tara Singh Gopi Chand
v. The State (1951)
, and the Allahabad High Court in Ram Nandan v. State of
Uttar Pradesh (1959)
- declared that Section 124A of the IPC was primarily a
weapon for the state to justify it means and declared the provision
After Being susceptible to fickleness for a such a prolonged time, in the
landmark case of Kedarnath Singh v State of Bihar the Apex Court upheld the
constitutional validity of IPC Section 124A and held that unless accompanied by
an incitement or call for violence, criticism of the government cannot be
labelled sedition and act inciting "public disorder" became a qualifying ground
The detenu Siddique Kappan was detained on his way to Hathras and the
prosecution alleged that the accused was carrying a foreign literature acting as
a medium to unite people for riots and there was a propaganda surrounding the
Hathras incident and eventually it was all part of a conspiracy designed by PFI
Supreme court held that "Every person has a right to freedom of expression and
he is trying to show that (Hathras) victim needs justice and raise a common
voice" and "Sometimes protests are necessary to highlight deficiencies at some
point and Till now, prosecution have not shown anything provocative." and
granted bail to the accused.
The Indian authorities routinely use vaguely worded, broad laws to silence and
harass critics such as Sedition and UAPA itself. The law enforcers use this laws
to criminalise peaceful protests and to silence the critics. These laws were
framed to keep in check the felonious use of the rights and freedom granted by
the constitution but it so happens these laws are often misused to detain the
arbiter and curb their freedom of speech and expression.
As so happened in the
case the judges concluded that " to the farthest extent the prosecution council
could only present that the accused was travelling to Hathras when he was
apprehended on the Yamuna Expressway on basis of some foreign literature founded
in the car which even was not on his personnel is not enough to convict the
accused. Secondly "let's raise a common voice" is not a crime in eyes of law.
While India's Supreme Court has constrained the use of the sedition law, making
incitement to violence a necessary element, still police continue to file
sedition charges even in cases where the necessary elements are not met.
By: Sanskar Goyal
- Constitution of India
- Indian Penal Code (1860)
- UAPA act (1967)
- Article 21(Constitution of India)
- Article 19 (Constitution of India
- SSC online (sedition and UAPA case laws)
- Manupatra (sedition and UAPA case laws)
- Lawtimes journal
- Indian kanoon
(3rd Year, BBA LLB, DES SNFLC)