Jailed Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan should be shifted to AIIMS or any Delhi government hospital for treatment, the Supreme Court said today. After recovering, he can be sent back to the Mathura jail, said the bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana while disposing a petition by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists.
"We state that the most precious fundamental 'right to life' unconditionally embraces even an undertrial. The consideration made herein is keeping in view the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case," the court said.
"Merely because the other jail inmates are receiving treatment similar to the arrestee need not deter us," the judges added.
"Taking into consideration of facts we see no reason to continue with the petition. We dispose it. Though Solicitor General (Tushar) Mehta opposed it, we direct UP to shift Kappan to AIIMS, or RML or any other government hospital," the judges said.
When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said no beds are available in Delhi and the court must vacate a bed of Covid patient for Kappan, who is Covid negative, the Chief Justice said, " You sort it out with the government".
The Uttar Pradesh government contended that Siddique Kappan has tested negative for Covid and is being discharged. The medical report submitted by the state shows he is in need of treatment as he suffered an injury.
"You have to consider the suggestion given by court in the context of the health condition of patient and responsibility of the state," said Chief Justice Ramana. "Kappan has BP and pulse rate, is a diabetic and suffered injury," he added.
Siddique Kappan was arrested in October last year while he was on way to Hathras to report on the situation following the alleged gang rape and death of a 20-year-old woman from Scheduled Castes, which triggered outrage across the country. He has been accused of sedition and charged under the stringent anti-terror law UAPA.
On April 24, Mr Kappan's wife had petitioned the Chief Justice of India, saying her husband, who was infected with coronavirus, has been tied to a cot at a hospital in Mathura and not even allowed to go to the toilet.
The next day, political leaders from Kerala including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, sought relief for Mr Kappan. Eleven MPs wrote to the Chief Justice of India, seeking interim relief and speedy hearing of his case. The Chief Minister wrote to his UP-counterpart Yogi Adityanath, seeking his intervention.
The Editors Guild of India said it is deeply disturbed by reports of "inhuman treatment". It is "shocking and should stir the conscience of the nation that a journalist is being treated in this cruel manner and being denied basic rights," the Guild said.
Opposing Siddique Kappans's bail, the Uttar Pradesh government said he is linked with PFI, which is banned in many states and Centre is in the process of banning it. The Solicitor General said the accused had used a fake identity card of a newspaper called Tejas which was closed three years ago. The daily had called Osama Bin Laden a "martyr", Mr Mehta said.
The petitioner's lawyer Wills Mathews argued that Siddique Kappan's arrest was illegal, and his remand was not as per law. The FIR against him was based on newspaper reports and no concrete material. For now, the first priority is medical treatment for Kappan, who is suffering from many ailments, Mr Matthews said.