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Illegal, Immoral: Lawyer on Siddique Kappan’s Discharge From AIIMS

Mathura jail SP denied all the allegations and said that not informing the family was neither illegal nor immoral.

Updated
India
6 min read
Siddique Kappan, a journalist from Kerala, was arrested while he was on his way to west UP’s Hathras in October 2020. 
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Kerala journalist and UAPA accused Siddique Kappan was discharged from AIIMS late at night on Thursday, 6 May, and taken back to Mathura Central Jail without informing his lawyer or his family, The Quint has confirmed with his lawyer and jail authorities.

The family and lawyer allege that his transfer from AIIMS has been done in a secretive, immoral, illegal and humiliating manner. Kappan’s wife, Raihanath, came to Delhi with her eldest son on 1 May – a day after her husband was moved to AIIMS – to meet him and know about his medical condition. “We do not even know where he has been taken after being discharged. They should at least tell us where he is,” Raihanath told this reporter.

Mathura Jail Superintendent Shailendra Kumar Maitreya confirmed that Kappan was brought to the jail around 2:30 am on Friday, 7 May.

However, he told this reporter to ask Kappan’s family why they insist on defying the rules during this pandemic. “We cannot let them meet in jail or at the hospital, considering the surge in cases. He is already getting treatment in India’s best hospital. What else can he ask for? My job is not to give regular updates to the family of the accused; I am not legally or morally responsible; I am only answerable to the court,” he said.

‘This Is Humiliation by the System’: Kappan’s Lawyer

Explaining what had happened, Kappan’s lawyer, Wills Mathews, said, “We got to know only close to midnight on the intervening night of 6 and 7 May and not through official channels that Kappan had been discharged. The police are legally bound to tell the family and the lawyer... I reached out to them, but they told me that they cannot help me. All this is happening in a secretive manner for no good reason. Not only secretive, but the most illegal and immoral way. I say illegal because I believe this is against the spirit of the order of the Supreme Court that stated he be moved to AIIMS. It is immoral as she (Raihanath) has been in Delhi since 1 May to meet her husband one way or another. She has visited AIIMS as well, but they kept denying her permission. The least the state has to do is, therefore, inform the wife of the accused of his medical records. This is humiliation by the system.”

Raihanath has been in Delhi for the last seven days. “She has left two of her three children behind; she has left her 90-year-old mother behind... She has come to a city where COVID cases are surging and how; she is desperate to know how her husband is doing,” Mathews said.

It was through a call that Kappan had made to Raihanath that the media got to know that he had been chained to his bed for four days and was not allowed to use the bathroom when he was admitted at the KM hospital in Mathura.

“This call, also, he made, through someone else’s phone at the hospital. Naturally, considering the circumstances, she is extremely worried,” the lawyer added. This had prompted the family to move the SC, asking for his transfer from Mathura and saying his life was in "extreme danger".

“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.]”
The petition filed in the SC

After this, he was shifted to AIIMS on 30 April.

“I am his wife, he is my husband, all I wanted to do was to see him. I risked everything to see him, but they did not consider anything. I stood outside the hospital for hours, my lawyer did everything too. But they did not feel sympathy or pity for me,” Raihanath said.

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‘Kappan Got Treatment in AIIMS, What Else Can One Ask For?’ Mathura Jail SP

After repeated attempts to meet her husband failed, Mathews filed an urgent application on 4 May to the Superintendent of Mathura Jail.

The plea was a request to order the Director of AIIMS hospital and the police constables guarding Kappan to permit Raihanath and her son to meet Kappan during the visitor's time between 4 pm and 6 pm. The lawyer had argued that the family or the lawyer were completely unaware of the progress of Kappan’s medical treatment.

The superintendent replied, “There is no provision in the UP jail manual which empowers the superintendent of the jail to allow the lawyer, prisoner’s wife or relatives to meet with the prisoner who is admitted in a hospital which is situated outside the jail.”

Speaking to The Quint, he said, “You tell me, in what rule does it say that I have to let them meet.”

When asked about Kappan’s health, Maitreya said, “Kappan is probably still COVID positive. Kappan only came at 2:30 am on 7 May. So, the doctor is yet to examine him. He is in a isolation room of the hospital, waiting for the doctor. Once that happens, we will know better.”

Regarding the family being completely unaware of his health and how the vagueness of it all is scaring them, Maitreya said, “The accused can speak to the family every day from jail, what better can we do than that? People are not getting admitted to hospitals, and he was admitted to a hospital-like AIIMS. Now that he is back, he can make that five-minute call him and apprise them of his health.” 

When asked why he did not give an update to the family, he said, “I am answerable to the court, my job is not to call the family of each accused. You think...if I tell the family anything, will believe they me? Is it not better if he speaks to them himself?”

Speaking about the fear within the family – stories of him being chained, etc – he said, “Now, there is no treatment for fear. There are 113 COVID positive patients, among the 1,700 odd inmates I have in this jail. Should I give updates on their health every day to the family? What I do not understand is how you have not asked me how I am doing. You should also be concerned about the officials as to how they are doing their duty. You should ask how our staff is dealing with the 113 COVID patients we have. We have already sent him to AIIMS, what else can we do?”

He went on to explain how the staff of Mathura jail in AIIMS had a hard time in the capital. “There were about ten of them, including UP police officials. They were not being allowed to go to the accused, they were worried they would lose their jobs, as they could not keep an eye on him. What if he ran away? Also, the accused was taken care of, but those responsible in security were struggling to get a cup of tea. They would call me repeatedly and tell me what they were going through and how hard it was to arrange food.”

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The Case Against Kappan

UP Police picked Siddique Kappan up on 5 October when he was on his way to west UP’s Hathras to report on the case of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang raped by four men before succumbing to her injuries.

They claim that he was on his way with a “very determined design to create caste divide and disturbing the law and order situation” in the area. That he, and the three others arrested with him, have links to the Popular Front of India (PFI), which is still not a banned organisation in India but is often referred to as a successor to the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

He and his lawyers have maintained that he was going to report on the case as a freelance journalist. “He is not a member of the PFI,” his lawyer Mathews said.

He has been lodged in a jail in Mathura and his wife has repeatedly told the media that Kappan was regularly tortured and abused while in their custody.

A charge sheet was filed against him on 2 April by the UP Police under the Sections 124A (sedition), 153-A (promoting enmity)n 295-A (outraging sentiments), Section 17 of the stringent anti-terror law called UAPA (punishment for raising funds for a terrorist act) and relevant sections of the IT Act on 2 April.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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