The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court has rejected the bail application of journalist Siddique Kappan, who was booked under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and other charges in the alleged Hathras conspiracy case, saying “the use of tainted money cannot be ruled out”.
UP Police had arrested Kappan and three others on October 5, 2020, from the Mant area of Mathura. They had claimed that the accused were travelling to Hathras to disturb peace and harmony in the area. On the other hand, Kappan’s lawyer has maintained that he was going there to report on the gang-rape and murder case involving a Dalit girl.
Kappan is lodged in jail since his arrest.
“Considering the facts and circumstances of the case… this court is not inclined to release the applicant on bail. The bail application is found devoid of merit,” said Justice Krishan Pahal in his August 2 order.
The court further said, “It has come up in the investigation that the applicant had no work at Hathras. 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. The said sojourn of the applicant with co-accused persons who do not belong to media fraternity is a crucial circumstance going against him (sic).”
The applicant’s defence that he was a journalist and he wanted to visit the Hathras incident site stood nullified by the charge-sheet and the fact that he was arrested with some persons while travelling in a car, the bench added.
The police had claimed to have recovered six smart phones, a laptop and pamphlets from them. It was alleged that Kappan and other accused were going to Hathras to create caste conflict and incite riots. They were accused of collecting funds and running a website that highlighted incidents of mob lynching, exodus of labourers and the Kashmir issues.
In April this year, the UP Police’s Special Task Force (STF) had chargesheeted him and seven others under the stringent UAPA and sections of the Information Technology Act. The others named in the chargesheet are alleged Popular Front of India (PFI) members Atiqur Rahman, Masood Ahmed, Rauf Sharif, Ansad Badruddin and Firoz Khan.
One Alam, who was driving Kappan at the time, and his relative Mohammad Danish, have also been named in the chargesheet. Danish had obtained interim stay from arrest, while the others are in judicial custody.
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Also, the court in its order said that the legislature has framed the UAPA to control such instances. “The courts interpret the laws enacted by the legislature which becomes functus officio after the framing of the statute. In the matter of National Investigation Agency vs. Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali1, the Apex Court, while overturning the High Courts order of granting bail to the accused, has 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 court is not supposed to delve into the admissibility and inadmissibility of documentary and oral evidence at the stage of bail (sic).”
A perusal of the charge-sheet and other documents prima facie revealed that the applicant had committed the offence, the bench observed.
In December last year, the case was transferred to a special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Lucknow since UAPA was invoked against the accused. Since UP didn’t have a designated court for cases under UAPA, the Lucknow NIA court has been designated as the UAPA court for the state.