Finally! After 850days in custody in jails in Uttar Pradesh for the “crime” of traveling to cover a ghastly and tragic crime of the gang-rape and death of a dalit woman in Hathras, Siddique Kappan walks out to freedom.
Charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and subsequently, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Kappan secured bail in the UAPA case on Sept 9, 2022 after a Supreme Court order.
The then CJI , UU Lalit said “he is trying to show that victim needs justice and raise a common voice. Is that a crime in eyes of law?” Despite such a strong statement from the court, the process continues to punish.
Verifications for sureties in this bail took months, even for former Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University, the doughty Roop Rekha Verma. They were finally done only in January 2023!
Meanwhile, Kappan secured bail in the PMLA case on December 24, after Justice DK Singh of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad HIgh Court said that no case was made out that Kappan was part of any money trail as alleged by the ED.
His lawyer, Ishan Baghel, pointed out that the alleged proceeds of the crime (of money laundering), that too, to co-accused Atik-ur-Rehman, not even to Kappan, was barely ₹ 5000! Under Sec 45 of the PMLA, proceeds of crime should be ₹ One crore or more.
Verifications of sureties and the release order in this bail order took till yesterday and came only after 4 pm, too late for the release to be effected by the jail authorities.
The process to secure justice is still not over. Chargesheets running into over 5000 pages have been filed, hearings will begin but for now, he has the freedom granted by bail.
India still has three journalists in jail – Aasif Sultan, jailed in August 2018, Sajjan Gul, jailed in January 2022 and Fahad Shah, jailed on Feb 5, 2022.