The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to shift Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, arrested last year on way to Hathras where a young Dalit woman had died after being gang raped, to a hospital in Delhi for better medical treatment.
A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana also made it clear that Kappan be sent back to Mathura jail after recovery.
The apex court granted him liberty to approach appropriate forum challenging his arrest or any other relief and disposed of the plea filed by Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ).
“Taking into consideration facts of the case, we dispose of the writ petition. Even though Solicitor General Tushar Mehta very seriously opposes, we are directing the state to shift the accused to RML or AIIMS or wherever treatment can be done,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and A S Bopanna.
Mehta strongly opposed the top court's suggestion saying 42-year old Kappan is COVID-19 negative and can be treated at a jail hospital in Mathura.
He also asked the bench to mention in its order that a hospital bed be vacated in Delhi for Kappan as the health care facilities are already full of patients.
The apex court however declined to say anything on the issue.
Mehta, appearing for the UP government, vehemently opposed the top court's suggestion earlier in the day and said that several similarly placed accused were getting treatment in hospitals in the state and Kappan should not be given special treatment just because a journalistic body is a petitioner here.
People with multiple organ failure are also being looked at by jail hospital in Mathura, he said.
The bench said it was confined to the limited prayer of granting better health facilities to Kappan and asked whether he could be allowed medical treatment in Delhi.
“We are confined to health issue. It is in the interest of the state also that the accused gets better treatment,” the bench observed.
On November 16 last year, the top court had sought a response from the Uttar Pradesh government on the plea challenging the arrest of the journalist.
The FIR has been filed under various provisions of the IPC and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against four people having alleged links with the Popular Front of India, or PFI.
Kappan was arrested on way to Hathras following the death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman who was allegedly gang-raped on September 14, 2020 in a village in the district.
Her cremation at night by the authorities, allegedly without the parents' consent, had triggered widespread outrage.