It has been one year since four men were intercepted on their way to west Uttar Pradesh's Hathras, on the allegations of wanting to create a caste divide and a law and order problem after a Dalit woman was allegedly raped and eventually murdered by the Thakurs in her village.
The allegations culminated into a First Information Report (FIR) where sections including sedition and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been invoked by the UP Police's Special Task Force. These allegations have been denied by all the accused since day one of their arrest, who say they had gone to the spot as activists and journalists to show solidarity with the family of the girl.
The family alleges that the arrests are an abuse of law. A press conference was organised with the family members and Delhi-based activists to commemorate the arrests on Tuesday, 5 October, at the Press Club.
In this one year, the case has seen several applications being filed one after the other. These include application of Habeas Corpus, of medical emergencies and of chasing the court for a copy of the charge sheet, which the UP Police is yet to supply to the accused. After speaking to the concerned lawyers, The Quint brings you details of the various pleas that made headlines or should have made more of a headline through these 365 days, according to the family members and lawyers.
Six Months and Counting: Still No Copy of the Charge Sheet
Siddique Kappan's lawyer, Wills Mathews told us that this was in 'continued and blatant violation of the fundamental right to a fair trial’ under Section 207 of the CRPC, which mandates that a copy of the charge sheet be provided to the accused ‘without delay’.
While Mathews is representing Kappan, the other seven accused are represented by advocate Madhuvan Dutt and Saifan. All believe that this delay is constant humiliation by the UP government who are blatantly ignoring the law.
Right after the charge sheet was filed by the police back on 3 April, advocate Dutt moved an inspection application to be able to see the charge sheet. Here you cannot bring the document out of the room or make copies, but can make notes. Four days after moving the inspection application, Chaturvedi sensed concerns of not being given the charge sheet. He moved an application under Section 207 of the CrPC on 17 April. As mentioned earlier, this allows the accused a copy of the charge sheet as a right guaranteed under the CrPC.
Section 207 reads:
In any case where the proceeding has been instituted on a police report, the Magistrate shall without delay furnish to the accused, free of cost, a copy of each of the following, including the police report (charge sheet).
The lawyers tell us that the Mathura court that was hearing the matter, would keep telling the police to provide a copy verbally but never issued an order in writing. The police also responded by saying that they could not provide a copy of the 4,800-pages of charge sheet as it was too expensive for them.
Since then nothing concrete has happened as hearings kept getting pushed to 4-6 weeks later.
"It has been six months now. How can we prepare bail arguments when we do not know the police's case? Is this following the law of the land?" Mathews adds. Dutt says that this delay is because the police does not have anything concrete on the accused, and they know that.
This is not the first time The Quint is reporting on this specific violation. We have been tracking the case and the hearings in court. When we reported on it first it had been two months since the copy of the charge sheet was given to them. Then we reported on it when it had been over a hundred days and now it has been six months.
Eventually about a month ago, all the pending 14 petitions moved by several accused in this specific case were all brought together to be heard by a special bench set up by the Allahabad High Court.
The next hearing in the case is on 27 October and the lawyers are expecting that their pleas will be heard in a more just manner.
Back and Forth: Pleas Around Atiq-Ur Rehman's Heart Condition
Atiq ur Rehman, the 27-year-old former treasurer of the Campus Front of India, has a heart condition. His family has been telling The Quint that he needs surgery or he will die, since we first reported on his medical pleas in August 2021.
He suffers from a heart condition called Aortic Regurgitation, which occurs when your heart's aortic valve doesn't close tightly. A month before his arrest in Octpber 2020, he was advised by his doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi to undergo a Bentall procedure for his condition. The family has documents to prove this claim. The most serious complication that could arise from this condition is heart failure. "He will get surgery or my brother will die," his elder brother Mateen has told this reporter repeatedly. So has his wife. "What did my husband even do? All I want is for him to get surgery and be alive," Sanjeeda Begum said.
They have moved applications, but every time, the court asks the jail authorities if he is being looked after in Mahura jail. The report of the jail authorities states he is being looked after adequately and hence does not need to be sent to AIIMS.
For instance in June 2021, when Atiq was unwell, his plea for interim bail to get the surgery was rejected. It was thereafter moved in Allahabad HC and has been sent to the special bench created to hear all the pleas in the case. Then again in August 2021, Atiq was admitted to the jail hospital.
Then again in September 2021, while Atiq was being taken to Lucknow for a different case of a Prevention of Money Laundering Act, he had to be admitted to a private hospital in Mathura. Days later, on 23 September the PMLA court order directed the Mathura jail to provide proper treatment to UAPA accused Atiq-ur Rehman. It further said that if required 'the accused be referred to some higher/better medical centre for proper treatment'.
"This applicant is a patient of severe Aortic Regurgitation, meaning destruction of aortic wall, and is a known pre-condition of cardiac arrest. Hence, the applicant be referred to AIIMS," the order reads.
The court went on to direct the Mathura jail authorities to provide him proper care and ensure that adequate medial facilities are provided to him.
Oddly, according to a report in The Times of India from 30 September, the jail authorities said that they had decided to send him to jail and an order to the effect was also passed. Despite that the concerned Chief Medical Officer is yet to sign off to allow him to leave and come to Delhi for treatment. The CMO's office has said, according to Atiq's family, that he can be treated in Mathura.
Sanjeeda, his wife, said, "He is very very unwell still. He needs to be out and get the surgery he needs. My two sons are with me and keep asking about him, if something happens what will I tell them. So I urge you (media) to be my voice and stand by me."
Siddique Kappan Being 'Chained to a Bed'
Over his time in the jail, Siddique Kappan's wife Raihanath told us several times that he was not being given food on time or that he was being mistreated in jail. This was concerning for her as Kappan is a diabeties patient and therefore eating meals on time was important for him.
This one time his wife said that in April, when Kappan had to be brought to court, he was not given food for 24 hours. Later the same month, it was reported that Kappan collapsed and suffered injuries in jail. He was admitted to a hospital where he tested positive for COVID but was not allowed to go to the toilet as he was handcuffed to the bed. He is urinating in a plastic bottle. He is a human being. He has to go to the toilet too, right?” Raihanath asked.
After this episode an urgent plea was submitted before the Chief Justice of India seeking his urgent transfer on 22 April. The plea read:
“Mr Kappan is chained like an animal to a cot of the Medical College Hospital, Mathura, without mobility, and he neither could take food, nor go to toilet for the last more than four days, and is very critical. If immediate corrective steps are not taken, it will result in his untimely death.[sic.]”
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan also intervened by writing to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath asking him to take measures to provide expert treatment to him.
Eventually, Kappan was moved to AIIMS for treatment after the Supreme Court order, and he was discharged on 6 May. Ever since, Mathews told this reporter that concerns regarding the health of Kappan keep coming up and he says he is contemplating moving the Supreme Court again.
His Habeas Corpus plea was disposed off when the Supreme Court stated he be moved to AIIMS. This brings us to the next concern regarding Kappan.
Siddique Kappan's Habeas Corpus Plea That Became Infructuous Due to Delay in Hearings
Kappan's Habeas Corpus plea was filed within 24 hours of his arrest on 6 October last year, and continued to be pending in court till the order of 7 May when he was asked to move to AIIMS.
His Habeas Corpus plea was disposed off, after the application was moved urgently in the court. The basis of the plea was how Kappan was under illegal detention.
“Whenever a person is under illegal detention, any friend of the accused can file a Habeas Corpus plea in any constitutional court, of the choice of the friend of the accused, under Article 226 (in the High Courts) and Article 32 (in the Supreme Court) of the Constitution of India. In this case, his friends and near ones are in Kerala and Delhi and the case is from Uttar Pradesh, hence we moved Supreme Court. As his arrest is in connection with his discharge of duty as a journalist, so there are larger issues involved. These are concerning the freedom of media, which is the breath of democracy," Mathews explained.
However the case was never heard.
The plea was to be heard on 16 November, 22 January and on 9 March. However on 4 April, the UP Police filed a charge sheet against him and the other accused. Criminal lawyer Satish Tamta told us how this delay, without the fault of the lawyer, meant that the Habeas Corpus plea in the Supreme Court was infructuous now. “The delay of the courts has allowed the police to build a case against the accused,” Tamta concludes.
Advocate and scholar Gautam Bhatia added that in the context of a charge sheet being filed against Kappan, looking ahead, he and his lawyers would have to move the court to quash the charges and apply for bail. “Since a habeas corpus plea is made when a detention is — quite literally — "without the authority of law", once there exists a charge sheet that has invoked certain criminal legal provisions against an accused, technically, it is no longer extra-legal detention. If the charges are frivolous and contrived, an accused would normally move the court to quash them, and for bail,” he said.
Either way, a timely Habeas Corpus plea that made arguments for illegal detention of the accused, never led to an order by the SC in time.
Masood Ahmad Not Allowed to Give JRF Exams
28-year-old Masood Ahmad is a student of Jamia who had done his MA in Public Administration and was studying to give the Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) exam on 5 November 2020. He was the Delhi state general secretary for the Campus Front of India. He was also the member of the Jamia Coordination Committee.
His lawyer Saifan says, "We filed an application that Masood was studying for his Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) exam for which the schedule and admit card had arrived. Our plea was that we do not need bail, but only permission to give the exam with the police escorting him. We also said that Masood was willing to pay the cost of the two policemen who would accompany him."
The Quint has seen a copy of the admit card as well as the application moved by him. His lawyer added that Masood was pleading with them to be able to give the exam as he had prepared for it for a while.
"However while our application was to allow Masood to give his paper, while he was in custody, the judge gave a very randomn order. The order said that the law does not allow for provisional bail. This was weird as we had never argued for bail in the first place," advocate Saifan said. Advocate Madhuvan Dutt said that the judge said there were no provisions of parole, or giving short term bail in the CRPC. "This was absured as we had never even asked for bail."
This hit Masood hard. "For 2-3 days he was in shock and unhappy," Saifan said. Ahmed was 'tirelessly preparing for the exam', CFI said.
Rauf Sharif Not Allowed to Video Call His Newborn
Sharif had a baby two-odd months ago. Since there were limitations on meeting due to COVID pandemic, the lawyers moved the court to allow a 10-minute video call so he could see his daughter.
The application, as accessed by The Quint, refers to how he had a daughter on 7 April. "The application/accused wants to see his newly born baby girl, but due to the second wave of fatal COVID-19 pandemic the jail authority is not permitting physical visits to meet his friends and family. Therefore, it is very necessary to allow him to see his daughter through video conference on humanitarian grounds," it reads as moved on 13 May 2021. They even added the child's birth certirficate.
However, the court did not allow video conferencing, the lawyer said.
"The judge however said that there were no provisions to allow for such a thing. We had argued that since this was a mercy petition, the judge would be the guardian of the jail, and can allow for this considering the circumstances of COVID," Saifan told The Quint. Dutt elaborated on the same and said, "The jail authorities submitted a report to the court saying that while they had provisions for video calls between the court and the accused, they did not have the infrastructure to allow for video calls between family members. The court then relied on what the jail authorities said and did not grant our request," he explained.
Brief Facts of the Case
The UP Police Special Task Force has accused eight men of a 'very determined design to create caste divide and disturb the law and order situation'.
Of the eight accused, four men, Siddique Kappan, Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed, and Alam, were booked by UP police on 5 October 2020 on their way to the Dalit victim’s home in west UP. The police claimed that acting on a tip, they had intercepted their car at a toll plaza.
Of the remaining four accused, Rauf Sharif, Firoze and Ansad Badruddin, were arrested later, while another accused, Danish, has not been arrested as he moved Allahabad HC against coercive action.
UP police have booked the men under Section 120B (criminal conspiracy), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295 A (deliberate acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 124 A (sedition) of the IPC, 65 and 72 of the IT Act and 17 (punishment for raising funds for a terrorist act) and 18 (punishment for conspiracy) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The men have maintained their innocence and said they were on their way as journalists to report on the matter or as activists to sympathise with the victim's family.
The court went on to direct the Mathura jail authorities to provide him proper care and ensure that adequate medial facilities are provided to him.