Charge-sheet and documents adduced prima facie point towards guilt; Allahabad High Court denies bail to journalist Siddique Kappan [Hathras gang-rape row]

Allahabad High Court

Allahabad High Court: Krishan Pahal, J. dismissed the bail application of Siddique Kappan, the journalist who was arrested along with three others in October 2020 while on his way to Hathras, Uttar Pradesh allegedly to report on the gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl noting that he had no work being in Hathras and that there were reasonable grounds to believe that the accusations against such person are prima facie true.

The FIR alleged that Kappan and other co-accused persons were heading to Hathras where the ill-fated incident had been committed with an intention to create caste struggle and to incite riots. The said persons were said to have been collecting funds and running a website ‘Carrd.com’. There was another website operated by the laptop which had the heading ‘Justice For Hathras’. It was also found that the incident of mob lynching, exodus of labourers and the Kashmir issues were also highlighted through the same website. The website also imparts training pertaining to concealing one’s identity during demonstrations and to ways to incite violence. The matter was registered under Sections 153-A, 295-A, 120-B Penal Code, 1860, Sections 17, 18 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and Sections 65 and 72 of Information Technology Act, 2000.

Senior Counsel for the applicant contended that no pamphlets or printing papers were being carried out by the applicant or other co-accused persons in the car and that the applicant was unaware of any website with the name of ‘Carrd.com’ and ‘Justice For Hathras’. It was submitted that Kappan was going to Hathras to discharge his duty as a professional journalist and was illegally detained by Police in violation of his fundamental rights. It was further submitted that the applicant is an honest journalist and does not post any biased reports on the basis of his political leanings. Kappan has written several journalistic reports on the plights of dalits and minorities, but none of them promotes any sort of rivalry between the communities.

State has vehemently opposed the bail application on the ground that Kappan is a resident of Kerala and has nothing to do with the incident of Hathras and had deliberately with malafide intent come with the co-accused persons and was arrested at Mathura. It was further stated that the co-accused persons had collected funds from foreign national mediums which was utilized by co-accused persons for illegal activities. Kappan was in regular touch with co-accused persons and there were call detail records (CDRs) to corroborate the same. It was submitted that during the search of his house at New Delhi, 47 papers in Malyalam language were recovered pertaining to Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). Two AK-47 guns were also shown in the said documents, which also contained the popular slogan of SIMI ‘Welcome Mohammad Gajni’.

The Court noted that after the investigation it came up that Kappan had no work in Hathras. The Court believed that the State machinery was at tenterhooks owing to the tension prevailing due to various types of information being viral across all forums of media including the internet and the sojourn of Kappan with co-accused persons who did not belong to media fraternity was a crucial circumstance going against him.

The Court nullified the defence made by Kappan of him being a journalist and visiting Hathras for work by the claims made by the prosecution in the charge sheet and stated that tainted money being used by him and his colleagues cannot be ruled out.

The Court considered the case of NIA v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, (2019) 5 SCC 1 where the Supreme Court while overturning the High Court’s order of granting bail to the accused, had stated that Section 43(D)(5) prohibits a Court from granting bail to accused if on a perusal of a final report filed under Section 173 Cr.P.C., the Court is of the opinion that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the accusations against such person are prima facie true.

The bail application was dismissed considering the facts and circumstances of the case, nature of offence, evidence on record, complicity of accused, severity of punishment and the settled law propounded by the Supreme Court in the case of NIA v. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, (2019) 5 SCC 1.

[Siddique Kappan v. State of U.P., 2022 SCC OnLine All 511, decided on 02-08-2022]


Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr I.B. Singh, Mr Ishan Baghel, Mr Avinash Singh Vishen, Advocates, Counsel for the Applicant;

Mr Vinod Kumar Shahi, Mr Shivnath Tilahari, Advocates, Counsel for the Opposite Party.


*Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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