Journalist Siddique Kappan’s release after 28 months in a UP jail, where a black hole with opaque procedures affected release

After 28 months and a demanding fight, I am out’: Journalist Siddique Kappan walks out of UP jail head held high


Navigating Uttar Pradesh (UP) opaque procedures meant delays in accessing documents and even getting the case listed but the grounded work by his legal team, a support group and his wife have ensured his release. Thereafter it took a month for the ‘verification’ of documents of eminent citizens who stood bail surety for Kappan.

Siddique Kappan and three others were arrested in October 2020 while on their way to Hathras where a Dalit woman died allegedly after being raped

One whole month after he was finally granted bail on December 23, 2022 and more than two years after he was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police while heading to the Hathras home of a young Dalit woman who died after an alleged gang rape, journalist Siddique Kappan was released from a Lucknow jail on Thursday (February 2, 2023) morning.

This was confirmed by Lucknow senior jail superintendent Ashish Tiwari to The Indian Express. Kappan was finally released at 8.30 am on Thursday. “All his paperwork was completed, and then he was released,” said Tiwari. Kappan’s release comes more than a month after he was granted bail on December 23 by the Allahabad High Court in a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate.

Speaking to the media after his release, Kappan said that it was a “long fight” to acquire bail and be released. “After 28 months and a long fight, I am out today. I got a lot of support from the media and I am happy,” he said. He has consistently denied all allegations levelled by the police against him, he said, “I had gone to do reporting there (in Hathras). What is wrong with that?…Nothing was found on me except my laptop and mobile phone. I had two pens and a notebook too.” Kappan and three others were arrested in Mathura on October 5, 2020, while heading to Hathras. There were also serious allegations about Kappan’s harsh treatment on the day of his arrest.

The high court in an order passed by Justice Dinesh Kumar Singh had said that “except for allegations that Rs 5,000 was transferred to the bank account of co-accused, Atikur Rahman, there is no other transaction, either in the bank account of the accused-applicant or in the bank account of co-accused”. The High Court also stated that Kappan was entitled to be released on bail as the “proceeds of crime is less than Rs 1 crore and there is no likelihood” of Kappan “to commit the same offence in future”.

Kappan had been granted bail by the Supreme Court on September 9, 2022 in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act –UAPA –case after being booked by the UP Police for alleged links with the radical Popular Front of India– the outfit and its affiliates were banned by the Centre on September 28. Senior constitutional lawyer, Kapil Sibal appeared in the apex court both for Kappan’s bail and before that on a habeas corpus petition.

While granting Kappan bail in the UAPA case, the Supreme Court inquired what exactly had been found against him, and also noted “the length of custody undergone”. In December 2023, a Lucknow court framed charges against Kappan and six others in the case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The other accused are K A Rauf Sherif, Atikur Rahman, Masud Ahmad, Mohammad Alam, Abdul Razzak and Ashraf Khadir.


Support Group for Siddique Kappan

Sabrangindia spoke at length to a member of the support group that spontaneously emerged for journalist Siddique Kappan. Says Geeta Seshu, senior journalist who runs Free Speech Collective, and is a part of this unique mobilisation for Kappan,

“A number of journalists and human rights activists helped support the campaign for Kappan’s release. They include the Kerala Union of Working Journalists in Delhi, the Siddique Kappan Solidarity Committee and its convener, senior journalist NP Chekutty in Kerala,  Sevanti Ninan, founder editor of The Hoot, journalists like Geeta Seshu from Free Speech Collective who took on the campaign after Kappan was transferred to an NIA court in Lucknow in 2021.” She adds, “Siddique Kappan was always very particular that he would only take the help of journalists and journalists’ organisations or press freedom groups because he was a journalist and travelling for his journalistic work.

Kappan worked for Tejas, a publication in Kerala when Chekutty was editor. But, says Seshu, it is the amazing legal support that the support group could muster for Kappan that is worthy of mention and note. This Support group that included senior journalist, Geeta Seshu, was and is conscious of the huge service or contributions made by a group of efficient and committed lawyers (advocates) who worked pro bono. In Kappan’s team, IB Singh, senior lawyer at the Lucknow bench of the High Court who was in fact out of the country when Geeta Seshu contacted him, did not take more than a few minutes to accept and agree. These are advocates of highly respected seniority.. then his son Ishaan Baghel stepped in with his team at the PMLA and NIA courts in Mathura and Lucknow. While bare expenses were paid through this support group no legal fees were charged. The Bail Application, Discharge application and Quashing Petition, applications to access case papers, were all handled by Singh and his wider team.

After the Mathura court rejected the bail in November 2021, the matter/case (scene) shifted to the NIA Special Court in Lucknow.  After his bail was rejected in Nov 2021, the PMLA case was filed and these dual proceedings became predictably the double-edged sword. This is when Ishan Baghel stepped in with his team to ensure that this case was followed up meticulously.

“The lessons learned are profound and lasting. Professional journalists are usually clueless about the complications related to legal and court procedures and therefore the first and critical steps are to ensure credible, senior level legal support that has a standing. Kappan like so many others just did not have lawyers, did not have access to lawyers,” elaborates Geeta.

Then there is the emotional support that the family of those jailed need: there are multiple issues involved here, especially in a state like UP. Getting access to the jailed journalist with his/her family: to navigate the fear (legitimate) that relatives have. A bitter experience that one of the co-accused in this case was shocking. Barely reported in the media bar some, the fact that the family was from Kerala and Muslim was enough to get them jailed themselves! Their crime? They came to Uttar Pradesh with a RTCPR (Covid-19 test) that was not from “a recognised health facility.”!

Sabrangindia: How was it navigating the legal quagmire in UP?

Geeta Seshu (GS): The real struggle was accessing documents – for months, Kappan was not given access to the entire charge-sheet  of the 5,000 pages. This defies the very basic tenets of Indian criminal law and due process when an accused is denied information on why and on what grounds his personal liberty has been challenged. Then there were/are the listing problems often cases such as these are not listed on the dates scheduled, there is no accountable system of ensuring transparency and promptness on this. The final blow was the ghastly delay in the verification of documents once we had managed to put together persons who were willing to stand surety.

The crucial assistance to find people to stand surety came from the Rihaii Manch in Lucknow, Sandeep Pandey and Arundhati Dhuru, the Press Club of India president Umakant Lakhere and journalist Kumar Sauveer who stood surety and came to court to sign the verification documents even though he had suffered a stroke just a day after agreeing to stand surety!

Sabrangindia: Where and what were the hurdles that he, his legal team and the support group faced in actually navigating these different hurdles and complications?

GS: First of all, we need to recognise there is no operative basic rule of law in Uttar Pradesh. Every institution of law and order and justice delivery functions arbitrarily. Then, there is a huge sense of prevalent fear in Uttar Pradesh that all persons in jail experience and have to overcome, but especially those from the marginalised sections, the minorities. Then there is black hole of procedure where we get no information, there is no transparency, where the police are not accountable to even the courts for inordinate delays (in verification of documents etc.). This is a challenge for us, the media, the human rights movement to re-calibrate and re-think our strategies. The endless delays we faced, since first September 2022, then November 2022 to just get official documents ‘verified’ is frustrating, shocking and frightening for the average person. And here we are happy and successful (as we should be) that Siddique Kappan is finally out.


In September 2022, when former pro vice chancellor of Lucknow University publicly declared that she would stand surety for journalist Siddqiue Kappan, her statement was received with awe and appreciation by the journalist and human rights community. Prof Verma had then told the media, “I am not completely aware of the details of Kappan’s case, but it looks that opening my mouth is a serious crime. He was heading to cover a crime incident in Hathras, but the scribe is arrested and suddenly serious offences Acts and sections such as UAPA, money laundering are slapped on him. Further, he becomes suspected of having links with notorious outfits. Such back-to-back developments to tighten the noose create doubts in citizens like me, and it seems that action against Kappan is motivated. I may be proven wrong if Kappan is indeed found guilty by court, but still at this moment, his right to bail cannot be suppressed.”



Ex-LU VC, Roop Rekha Verma stands as bail surety for journalist, Siddique Kappan





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