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From newsrooms to courtrooms

When journalists have to face the court, it makes for different news, but recently, it is the courts that seem to have protected the pen

Karuna John 24 Jun 2021

Image Courtesy:thelogicalindian.com

"Mother died, rights as a journalist violated,” Journalist Siddique Kappan reportedly told Mathura Court in his bail plea, the matter has been adjourned to July 5, reported Live Law. His mother Khadeeja Kutty, died waiting for Siddique, her youngest child to call her as he had always done. “We had not told her that Siddique was jailed, he would call her everyday earlier and they would have long chats. She would keep track of his work too,” said Kappan’s wife Raihanath, who took care of her mother in law till the end came on Friday. She is now handling the streams of calls, and visits from those expressing their condolences and has not really had the time to mourn the woman she loved. Raihanath says it was Siddique’s prolonged absence that hurt Khadeeja Kutty, the most. Siddique had been in jail for the last 8 months and 22 days, when his mother expired, his counsel had submitted before the Mathura ADJ Narender Kumar Pandey, according to news reports.

The last Khadeeja had heard from Siddique was that he going to Uttar Pradesh's Hathras to report on the alleged gang-rape of a Dalit woman.

“She was old, but she was in stable health [before his arrest]. She would read all his news reports first thing in the morning,” Raihanath told SabrangIndia over the phone from Kerala. Then his daily calls stopped suddenly. “She was not told about his arrest. Siddique not being home affected her deeply. He used to call her everyday and suddenly for her there was no news of him,” said Raihanath. 

According to her, the old woman’s health started deteriorating after that, “That is what led to her death. Even if I hid the news of his health she could sense something had happened. She eventually grew tired of asking us because we would evade the questions. She went completely silent for a long time before she died. “I can't see my son… where is my son” was all she would ask. I had no option but to hide the details from her.”

Siddique last visited his mother in February, when the Supreme Court granted him five days' bail, NDTV had then reported, adding that the court said Siddique “could only speak to relatives and doctors treating his mother” and he was escorted by cops at all times. When he heard of her death, he asked his family to arrange the funeral, adding that he will pray for her in his jail cell, said his family members. 

Raihanath, however, says while she was at home and could see her mother in law’s health decline, the news of her death would have been a shock to Siddique. “It's just been a few days since Umma (mother) passed away. I know what he must be feeling, he was not able to see her one last time. I am sure he wanted to come home to her… we had hoped he would get bail. However, that did not happen as the main judge was not there I was told. Now we wait for July 5,” she said.

Earlier this week the Mathura court dropped one case, relating to apprehension of breach of peace - against Kappan because police failed to complete inquiries within the six-month deadline, reported NDTV. However he remains in jail on other charges including Sedition

Justice delayed is justice denied

What does Raihanath hope for now that one case against Siddique has been dropped? 

“Our lawyer went to the Mathura Court after the Supreme Court directions. We still have hope, after the Mathura court dropped a case related to the apprehension of breach of peace,” she says her ‘hope’ is fuelled by “what Siddique told me, that India is a democracy and we must believe in the judicial system. We have to have the faith that the court will be just. His health has been deteriorating. His immunity is low. He has already had Covid. That's when I appealed to the courts, and they moved him to AIIMS after the courts intervened. The Uttar Pradesh police didn't do it on their own.” It is the court’s interventions that keep her hope alive, she says. 

However, she adds that justice should not be delayed, “If justice comes after five or ten years that is not justice.” This is a precarious time for independent journalists in India, she has realised. She says her husband was doing his duty [as a journalist] to verify the facts from the ground, “He was going to Hathras to report on what was the ground reality and not depend on what he had heard.” According to Raihanath, journalists must realise that this is the time for the media to stand together in solidarity. “It is not about Siddique alone. Today it is him, tomorrow it can be any other journalist. Independent journalists are at a risk,” she says. The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), of which he was an office bearer, has been at the forefront and had moved the Supreme Court seeking his bail. “The KUWJ is supporting me, they know him well, they know he is innocent. They give me courage, they help with the cases. Some others are perhaps scared for themselves and fear action if they even talk to me. But that too is slowly changing, people are standing in solidarity, even people I do not know call me and give me courage.” 

Raihanath, says she is not an activist, she is the wife of a journalist who has been jailed, “I am a housewife, we have three kids. I studied to be a lab technician, but I chose to stay home and take care of my family. Taking care of my father and mother in law gave me a lot of satisfaction. Siddique took good care of us. I was a simple woman, happy to be a homemaker. The past eight months have changed everything. I realised if I started crying in despair that would be all I would be doing,” she says. Something has changed within her too, she now seeks information, much like a reporter does and is driven to read everything about the case, about the laws invoked and keeps track of all hearings. “I have known Siddique for nearly 20 years, I know what kind of a man he is. He is innocent. He is a good man. I know he is not even capable of Sedition. We are facing many challenges, but I am praying for courage. I have to take care of my three children. I need to be strong. If Siddique calls I have to give him courage too. I have to be strong as there is no option,” she says. 

How does she manage day to day expenses with three growing children at home? “We depended on Siddique's income to live on. Now it is my entire family that helps, even neighbours help. I wait in hope that this bad time will pass, and the courts will give us justice ,” she says, as yet another guest walks in to express condolences with the family.

Here is a look at how other journalists, who have been charged under various sections recently, are faring at the courts.

NewsClick: Courts direct ED not to take any coercive action till July 5 

Late on Monday night the Delhi High Court directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) not to take any coercive action until July 5, against PPK Newsclick Studio Private Limited, which owns the news portal NewsClick, and company director Prabir Purkayastha stated news reports. Justice Jasmeet Singh while issued a notice to ED in a petition seeking a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered by ED against NewsClick, has asked Delhi Police to respond to another petition filed by the news portal’s owners for quashing of the case registered by the Economic Offence Wing against it last year, as per news report. The ED has been granted two weeks to file a reply in the case seeking the copy of ECIR, by the court. According to news reports, the ED case related to alleged foreign funding is based on an FIR registered by Delhi Police’s Economic Offence Wing (EOW) last year. NewsClick and its editor-in-chief Purkayastha in his petition had sought a copy of the ECIR and protection from any coercive action in the meantime.

The ED had also raided, for around 113 hours, multiple locations related to the news portal in February this year. It was only after the physical raids ended that NewsClick’s 73-year-old editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha, and 67-year-old author Githa Hariharan were allowed to step out of their South Delhi apartment. They had been confined indoors since the raids began in the morning on February 9, Tuesday at the NewsClick office and residences of the senior staff.

Rana Ayyub : Bombay HC grants 4-week protection from arrest

On Monday, June 21, the Bombay High Court granted a “transit anticipatory bail” to journalist Rana Ayyub in connection with an FIR against her for sharing the video of an elderly Muslim man being assaulted in Ghaziabad. The court granted her protection from arrest for four weeks, reported Indian Express. The Ghaziabad Police registered an FIR naming news portal The Wire,  journalists Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, and fact checker Mohammed Zubair on June 15. Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed and Maskoor Usmani have also been named. They have been accused of posting tweets without "verifying facts" and "giving a communal colour" to the alleged assault on Sufi Abdul Samad, the old Muslim man at the centre of this growing controversy, who had claimed in a video message that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant "Vande Mataram" and "Jai Shri Ram" by goons who also assaulted him. 

Ghaziabad police who subsequently arrested the main accused and his accomplices, have ruled out any "communal angle". The FIR was filed against Ayyub and others, reported IE was for offences punishable under sections 153 (giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings ), 505 (statements conducting public mischief) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). According to the news report, the Bench observed, “Since investigation is being conducted by concerned police and since the concerned court will be dealing with the case on merits, it is not necessary to adjudicate on merits of application. However, to enable the applicant to approach the appropriate court, the protection can be granted for a temporary period of four weeks” adding “in the event of arrest, the applicant will be released on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 with one or more sureties. The protection will be granted for a period of four weeks.” 

Vinod Dua : SC quashes Sedition case against him

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court quashed the Sedition case against journalist Vinod Dua registered at the Himachal Pradesh Police in connection with a video uploaded on YouTube last year criticising the Central government’s poor implementation of the Covid-19 lockdown. The Division Bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran stated, “We have quashed the proceedings and FIR. Every journalist will be entitled to the protection under Kedar Nath Singh (sedition) judgment.” The constitutionality of Sedition law was upheld but the 5 judge Bench also said that the offense of Sedition is constituted only when the words spoken have the tendency or intention to create disorder or disturb public peace by resorting to violence. However, the Bench rejected a prayer by Vinod Dua to direct that no FIR should be registered against any media personnel with 10 years’ experience unless cleared by an expert committee. As reported, the court ruled, “We have rejected the committee formation prayer since it will be directly encroaching upon the legislative domain. However, the FIR against Vinod Dua stands quashed.” An FIR was registered against him based on a complaint filed by BJP leader Ajay Shyam after he made personal comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his YouTube program titled “Vinod Dua show”. Dua was reportedly booked under Indian Penal Code sections 124A (sedition), 268 (public nuisance), 501 (printing defamatory matter) and 505 (intent to cause public mischief). Dua was also charged for offences under the Disaster Management Act including spreading of misinformation and false claims.

Mandeep Punia: Freed from jail after court says ‘bail is rule and jail is exception’

Freelance journalist Mandeep Punia was arrested by Delhi Police while covering the farmers’ tractor rally on January 26. He was granted bail, three days after he was arrested and sent to Tihar Jail. The Magistrate court observed that keeping him in custody will not serve any cogent purpose and relied upon ‘bail is rule and jail is exception’ principle. The 25-year-old journalist, a freelancer, an independent reporter, had been sent to judicial custody after his arrest from the Singhu border from where he was reporting about the farmers' protests. While pronouncing the bail order, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Satvir Singh Lamba later stated that it was unlikely that Punia would influence the course of the investigation and given the well-settled legal principle that bail is the rule. The order reads, "... there is no possibility that accused/ applicant can able to influence any of the police officials. Admittedly, the accused is a freelancer journalist. Moreso, no recovery is to be effected from the accused person and keeping the accused further in Judicial Custody would not serve any cogent purpose. It is well settled legal principle of law that 'bail is a rule and jail is an exception'. Hence, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of the present case, submissions on behalf of both the parties as well as keeping in view the period of detention of the accused in judicial custody, he is admitted to bail." The court noted, “The complainant, the victims and the witnesses in the case were all police officials,” hence there was no possibility of Puniya influencing the case.

Related:

Press Freedom in India - 2021: A half-yearly report
Journalist gets death threats for reporting on funding of international rightwing groups!
You are a Ansari, rise above your religion: Gorakhpur DM to journalist

 

From newsrooms to courtrooms

When journalists have to face the court, it makes for different news, but recently, it is the courts that seem to have protected the pen

Image Courtesy:thelogicalindian.com

"Mother died, rights as a journalist violated,” Journalist Siddique Kappan reportedly told Mathura Court in his bail plea, the matter has been adjourned to July 5, reported Live Law. His mother Khadeeja Kutty, died waiting for Siddique, her youngest child to call her as he had always done. “We had not told her that Siddique was jailed, he would call her everyday earlier and they would have long chats. She would keep track of his work too,” said Kappan’s wife Raihanath, who took care of her mother in law till the end came on Friday. She is now handling the streams of calls, and visits from those expressing their condolences and has not really had the time to mourn the woman she loved. Raihanath says it was Siddique’s prolonged absence that hurt Khadeeja Kutty, the most. Siddique had been in jail for the last 8 months and 22 days, when his mother expired, his counsel had submitted before the Mathura ADJ Narender Kumar Pandey, according to news reports.

The last Khadeeja had heard from Siddique was that he going to Uttar Pradesh's Hathras to report on the alleged gang-rape of a Dalit woman.

“She was old, but she was in stable health [before his arrest]. She would read all his news reports first thing in the morning,” Raihanath told SabrangIndia over the phone from Kerala. Then his daily calls stopped suddenly. “She was not told about his arrest. Siddique not being home affected her deeply. He used to call her everyday and suddenly for her there was no news of him,” said Raihanath. 

According to her, the old woman’s health started deteriorating after that, “That is what led to her death. Even if I hid the news of his health she could sense something had happened. She eventually grew tired of asking us because we would evade the questions. She went completely silent for a long time before she died. “I can't see my son… where is my son” was all she would ask. I had no option but to hide the details from her.”

Siddique last visited his mother in February, when the Supreme Court granted him five days' bail, NDTV had then reported, adding that the court said Siddique “could only speak to relatives and doctors treating his mother” and he was escorted by cops at all times. When he heard of her death, he asked his family to arrange the funeral, adding that he will pray for her in his jail cell, said his family members. 

Raihanath, however, says while she was at home and could see her mother in law’s health decline, the news of her death would have been a shock to Siddique. “It's just been a few days since Umma (mother) passed away. I know what he must be feeling, he was not able to see her one last time. I am sure he wanted to come home to her… we had hoped he would get bail. However, that did not happen as the main judge was not there I was told. Now we wait for July 5,” she said.

Earlier this week the Mathura court dropped one case, relating to apprehension of breach of peace - against Kappan because police failed to complete inquiries within the six-month deadline, reported NDTV. However he remains in jail on other charges including Sedition

Justice delayed is justice denied

What does Raihanath hope for now that one case against Siddique has been dropped? 

“Our lawyer went to the Mathura Court after the Supreme Court directions. We still have hope, after the Mathura court dropped a case related to the apprehension of breach of peace,” she says her ‘hope’ is fuelled by “what Siddique told me, that India is a democracy and we must believe in the judicial system. We have to have the faith that the court will be just. His health has been deteriorating. His immunity is low. He has already had Covid. That's when I appealed to the courts, and they moved him to AIIMS after the courts intervened. The Uttar Pradesh police didn't do it on their own.” It is the court’s interventions that keep her hope alive, she says. 

However, she adds that justice should not be delayed, “If justice comes after five or ten years that is not justice.” This is a precarious time for independent journalists in India, she has realised. She says her husband was doing his duty [as a journalist] to verify the facts from the ground, “He was going to Hathras to report on what was the ground reality and not depend on what he had heard.” According to Raihanath, journalists must realise that this is the time for the media to stand together in solidarity. “It is not about Siddique alone. Today it is him, tomorrow it can be any other journalist. Independent journalists are at a risk,” she says. The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), of which he was an office bearer, has been at the forefront and had moved the Supreme Court seeking his bail. “The KUWJ is supporting me, they know him well, they know he is innocent. They give me courage, they help with the cases. Some others are perhaps scared for themselves and fear action if they even talk to me. But that too is slowly changing, people are standing in solidarity, even people I do not know call me and give me courage.” 

Raihanath, says she is not an activist, she is the wife of a journalist who has been jailed, “I am a housewife, we have three kids. I studied to be a lab technician, but I chose to stay home and take care of my family. Taking care of my father and mother in law gave me a lot of satisfaction. Siddique took good care of us. I was a simple woman, happy to be a homemaker. The past eight months have changed everything. I realised if I started crying in despair that would be all I would be doing,” she says. Something has changed within her too, she now seeks information, much like a reporter does and is driven to read everything about the case, about the laws invoked and keeps track of all hearings. “I have known Siddique for nearly 20 years, I know what kind of a man he is. He is innocent. He is a good man. I know he is not even capable of Sedition. We are facing many challenges, but I am praying for courage. I have to take care of my three children. I need to be strong. If Siddique calls I have to give him courage too. I have to be strong as there is no option,” she says. 

How does she manage day to day expenses with three growing children at home? “We depended on Siddique's income to live on. Now it is my entire family that helps, even neighbours help. I wait in hope that this bad time will pass, and the courts will give us justice ,” she says, as yet another guest walks in to express condolences with the family.

Here is a look at how other journalists, who have been charged under various sections recently, are faring at the courts.

NewsClick: Courts direct ED not to take any coercive action till July 5 

Late on Monday night the Delhi High Court directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) not to take any coercive action until July 5, against PPK Newsclick Studio Private Limited, which owns the news portal NewsClick, and company director Prabir Purkayastha stated news reports. Justice Jasmeet Singh while issued a notice to ED in a petition seeking a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered by ED against NewsClick, has asked Delhi Police to respond to another petition filed by the news portal’s owners for quashing of the case registered by the Economic Offence Wing against it last year, as per news report. The ED has been granted two weeks to file a reply in the case seeking the copy of ECIR, by the court. According to news reports, the ED case related to alleged foreign funding is based on an FIR registered by Delhi Police’s Economic Offence Wing (EOW) last year. NewsClick and its editor-in-chief Purkayastha in his petition had sought a copy of the ECIR and protection from any coercive action in the meantime.

The ED had also raided, for around 113 hours, multiple locations related to the news portal in February this year. It was only after the physical raids ended that NewsClick’s 73-year-old editor-in-chief Prabir Purkayastha, and 67-year-old author Githa Hariharan were allowed to step out of their South Delhi apartment. They had been confined indoors since the raids began in the morning on February 9, Tuesday at the NewsClick office and residences of the senior staff.

Rana Ayyub : Bombay HC grants 4-week protection from arrest

On Monday, June 21, the Bombay High Court granted a “transit anticipatory bail” to journalist Rana Ayyub in connection with an FIR against her for sharing the video of an elderly Muslim man being assaulted in Ghaziabad. The court granted her protection from arrest for four weeks, reported Indian Express. The Ghaziabad Police registered an FIR naming news portal The Wire,  journalists Saba Naqvi, Rana Ayyub, and fact checker Mohammed Zubair on June 15. Congress leaders Salman Nizami, Shama Mohamed and Maskoor Usmani have also been named. They have been accused of posting tweets without "verifying facts" and "giving a communal colour" to the alleged assault on Sufi Abdul Samad, the old Muslim man at the centre of this growing controversy, who had claimed in a video message that his beard was cut off and he was forced to chant "Vande Mataram" and "Jai Shri Ram" by goons who also assaulted him. 

Ghaziabad police who subsequently arrested the main accused and his accomplices, have ruled out any "communal angle". The FIR was filed against Ayyub and others, reported IE was for offences punishable under sections 153 (giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings ), 505 (statements conducting public mischief) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). According to the news report, the Bench observed, “Since investigation is being conducted by concerned police and since the concerned court will be dealing with the case on merits, it is not necessary to adjudicate on merits of application. However, to enable the applicant to approach the appropriate court, the protection can be granted for a temporary period of four weeks” adding “in the event of arrest, the applicant will be released on a personal bond of Rs 25,000 with one or more sureties. The protection will be granted for a period of four weeks.” 

Vinod Dua : SC quashes Sedition case against him

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court quashed the Sedition case against journalist Vinod Dua registered at the Himachal Pradesh Police in connection with a video uploaded on YouTube last year criticising the Central government’s poor implementation of the Covid-19 lockdown. The Division Bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran stated, “We have quashed the proceedings and FIR. Every journalist will be entitled to the protection under Kedar Nath Singh (sedition) judgment.” The constitutionality of Sedition law was upheld but the 5 judge Bench also said that the offense of Sedition is constituted only when the words spoken have the tendency or intention to create disorder or disturb public peace by resorting to violence. However, the Bench rejected a prayer by Vinod Dua to direct that no FIR should be registered against any media personnel with 10 years’ experience unless cleared by an expert committee. As reported, the court ruled, “We have rejected the committee formation prayer since it will be directly encroaching upon the legislative domain. However, the FIR against Vinod Dua stands quashed.” An FIR was registered against him based on a complaint filed by BJP leader Ajay Shyam after he made personal comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his YouTube program titled “Vinod Dua show”. Dua was reportedly booked under Indian Penal Code sections 124A (sedition), 268 (public nuisance), 501 (printing defamatory matter) and 505 (intent to cause public mischief). Dua was also charged for offences under the Disaster Management Act including spreading of misinformation and false claims.

Mandeep Punia: Freed from jail after court says ‘bail is rule and jail is exception’

Freelance journalist Mandeep Punia was arrested by Delhi Police while covering the farmers’ tractor rally on January 26. He was granted bail, three days after he was arrested and sent to Tihar Jail. The Magistrate court observed that keeping him in custody will not serve any cogent purpose and relied upon ‘bail is rule and jail is exception’ principle. The 25-year-old journalist, a freelancer, an independent reporter, had been sent to judicial custody after his arrest from the Singhu border from where he was reporting about the farmers' protests. While pronouncing the bail order, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Satvir Singh Lamba later stated that it was unlikely that Punia would influence the course of the investigation and given the well-settled legal principle that bail is the rule. The order reads, "... there is no possibility that accused/ applicant can able to influence any of the police officials. Admittedly, the accused is a freelancer journalist. Moreso, no recovery is to be effected from the accused person and keeping the accused further in Judicial Custody would not serve any cogent purpose. It is well settled legal principle of law that 'bail is a rule and jail is an exception'. Hence, considering the totality of facts and circumstances of the present case, submissions on behalf of both the parties as well as keeping in view the period of detention of the accused in judicial custody, he is admitted to bail." The court noted, “The complainant, the victims and the witnesses in the case were all police officials,” hence there was no possibility of Puniya influencing the case.

Related:

Press Freedom in India - 2021: A half-yearly report
Journalist gets death threats for reporting on funding of international rightwing groups!
You are a Ansari, rise above your religion: Gorakhpur DM to journalist

 

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