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By Sushil Silvano, Our Special Correspondent, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi, TIO:
Hardly had the Ink dried on the three bail orders passed by the Delhi High Court on UAPA accused, a Mathura Court on June 15 dropped the proceedings against Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan and three other persons in connection with a case registered against them initially under charges related to apprehension of breach of peace ( but the dreaded UAPA provisions were invoked subsequently ) while they were on their way to Hathras to meet the family of a Dalit woman allegedly raped and murdered last year.
The three orders are perhaps the first instance of a court calling out alleged misuse of the UAPA against individuals in cases that do not necessarily fall in the category of “terrorism” cases.
According to Live Law, a reputed legal news portal , the Sub Divisional Magistrate of Mant, Ram Datt. Ram dropped the Proceedings against them, as the police failed to complete the inquiry against them within the prescribed period of six months as stipulated under Section 116 (6) of CrPC.
They have been discharged of the charges under Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc) sections 151(Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences), 107(Security for keeping the peace in other cases) and 116 (Inquiry as to truth of information).
The accused [Atiqur Rahman, Masood Ahmed and Alam and Siddique Kappan] were arrested by the Maan police under the above-mentioned charges while they were going to Hathras.
Initially, they were arrested under the apprehension of causing a breach of peace and were produced before a court of the sub-divisional magistrate which sent them to judicial custody.
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Subsequently, they were booked under the UAPA alleging that he and his co-passengers were trying to incite communal riots and disrupt social harmony in the wake of the Hathras gangrape-murder case.
They have been under judicial custody and in April 2021, eight people linked to Popular Front of India, including its students’ wing leader K A Rauf Sherif and Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, were charge-sheeted by Uttar Pradesh police’s Special Task Force in a court here for sedition, criminal conspiracy, funding of terror activities and other offences.
While being in judicial custody, the court, which was hearing the case related to breach of peace sent them a notice under Section 111 of CrPC which is related to the order of the magistrate against any person, likely to commit a breach of peace.
Thereafter, a notice was served to them in jail asking them as to why they should not be asked to submit a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh each, along with sureties from two guarantors of the same amount.
They denied the charges levelled against them and thereafter, since the police, in the prescribed period of six months, could not produce evidence in support of their case, the court discharged the accused on technical grounds on June 15.
Kerala-based Journalist Siddique Kappan had moved a regular bail application before the Mathura District Court stressing that in the charge sheet, there was nothing to connect the applicant with the alleged offences other than bald allegations, without supporting documents.
Referring to Supreme Court’s order granting liberty to him to seek remedy available in law including granting liberty to file an application for bail along with other reliefs, the Bail Application avers that keeping him in jail on the strength of UAPA is nothing but a misuse of its provisions, more particularly when there is no iota of evidence or recovery against the accused even in the charge sheet
Recently, Kappan’s wife wrote to the CJI saying that that he (who has recently tested Positive for COVID-19) is chained like an animal to a cot of the Medical College Hospital, Mathura, without mobility, and that he is not able to take food, go to the toilet for the last more than 4 days, and is very critical.
The letter also stated that the Writ of Habeas Corpus (seeking Kappan’s release) petition filed on 06th October 2020 which was supposed to be disposed of on 09th March 2021 had not been disposed of despite it being listed more than 7 times.
Thus, it sought immediate steps/ necessary orders are passed to release Kappan from the Medical College Hospital back to the Mathura Jail as an interim relief, till the disposal of the mentioning application filed on 22nd April 2021.
It may be noted that Citing medical emergency, Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) had moved the Supreme Court seeking the transfer of Kerala Journalist Siddique Kappan to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) or Safdarjung Hospital, Delhi.
In its plea, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) had submitted that on 20th April 2021, Kappan collapsed in the bathroom with serious injuries and later on he tested positive for COVID-19 and is presently hospitalized in a Mathura hospital.
The UP Government alleged that Kappan was linked to the Popular Front of India and was trying to incite communal riots under the garb of a journalist.
The KUWJ has denied that Kappan has any connection with the Popular Front of India (PFI). In this regard, the KUWJ states that the UP Government has taken inconsistent stances in two affidavits.
Significantly, the Supreme Court had, on April 28 directed that Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan be shifted from Mathura Jail in Uttar Pradesh to a government hospital in Delhi for medical treatment.
Pursuant to this order, he was shifted from Mathura Jail to AIIMS, New Delhi in an ambulance and was under treatment since April 30, however, the Notice alleges that none of the family members or the lawyer of Kappan was informed about the progress of his medical condition/treatment till May 7, 2021.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a Central Agency which compiles the data on crimes as reported by States and Union Territories and publishes the same in its annual publication “Crime in India” ( the latest published report is of the year 2018), a total of 922, 901 and 1182 cases were registered and a total of 999, 1554 and 1421 persons were arrested under the Anti-terror law i.e. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) in India during the year 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.
There are a total of 232, 272 and 317 cases, wherein chargesheet have been filed by the security agencies with respect to the cases registered under UAPA during the year 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. Further, in the year 2017 and 2018, the number of chargeheests submitted in one to two years are 92 and 52 and after two years are 31 and 10 respectively.
According to the data provided by the government on the third day of Parliament’s winter session on November 20, 2019, 3,681 persons were arrested under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in the country in three years till 2017.
In a written reply to a question (unstarred question no. 353) in the Rajya Sabha on how many persons were arrested so far under UAPA during last three years (2016-19), Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kishan Reddy said on November 20, 2019 “As per information received from NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), a total of 11,28,999 and 1,554 persons were arrested under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA) in the country during the year 2015, 2016 and 2017, respectively.”
According to the government data, in three years, the highest numbers of arrests were reported from Manipur where 1,440 persons were arrested, followed by another north-eastern state, Assam which had 721. Third, on the list is Bihar with 473 and then came Uttar Pradesh with 420 arrests. Jharkhand carried out 217 arrests, while there 101 arrests in Jammu and Kashmir during this period.
It should be noted that in Uttar Pradesh, while 23 people were arrested under this act in 2015, the figure came down to 15 in 2016 but as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed the government in March 2017, the number of arrests surged to 382 that year. In all the five states where maximum arrests were carried out in three years (2015-2017), BJP or BJP-led governments were in power.
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Compiled and Curated By Humra Kidwai