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Right to life includes undertrials: SC in Kappan case

Source: PTI
April 29, 2021 14:29 IST
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"We state that the most precious fundamental 'right to life' unconditionally embraces even an undertrial. The consideration made herein is keeping in view the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case.

IMAGE:  Members of Kerala Union of Working Journalists hold a candlelight vigil as they protest against the arrest of journalist Siddique Kappan at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi . Photograph: ANI Photo
 

Observing that 'right to life' embraces even an undertrial, the Supreme Court has directed the Uttar Pradesh government to shift journalist Siddique Kappan, suffering from various ailments and 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 granted the relief and directed the state to provide medical treatment to the Kerala-based scribe.

"We are of the view that owing to the apparent precarious health condition of the arrestee, it is necessary to provide adequate and effective medical assistance to him and to allay all apprehension relating to his health.

"It would be in the interest of justice to shift Siddique Kappan -- the arrestee, either to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital or to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) or any other Government Hospital in Delhi for the proper medical treatment. The needful shall in this regard be done at the earliest," the bench said in its order uploaded last Wednesday night.

The bench also comprising Justices Surya Kant and A S Bopanna said that Kappan will be transferred back to Mathura jail after his recovery.

The top court, however, granted him liberty to approach an appropriate forum challenging his arrest or for any other relief and disposed of the plea filed by Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) and his wife, seeking his release from alleged illegal detention.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for UP government, Solicitor General emphasised that adequate medical treatment is being provided as in the case of all other jail inmates and if need be further facility shall be extended to the arrestee.

The apex court, however, said, "We state that the most precious fundamental 'right to life' unconditionally embraces even an undertrial. The consideration made herein is keeping in view the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case.

"Merely because the other jail inmates are receiving treatment similar to the arrestee need not deter us.

Needless to say, as soon as Siddique Kappan recovers and the doctors certify him fit to be discharged, he would be shifted back to Mathura Jail," the bench said.

The apex court also granted liberty to Kappan to avail appropriate remedy in accordance with law before the concerned courts for the grant of bail or to challenge the proceedings or for quashing the charge sheet.

In case such petition/application is filed by him, it shall be considered and decided by the concerned court on its own merits and in accordance with law, the bench said.

It also clarified that the bench has not expressed any views on the merits of the contentious issues raised by both sides.

At the outset, Mehta vehemently opposed the maintainability of the petition by the petitioner association.

The court, however, noted in its order that that during the pendency of these proceedings, the wife of the journalist has also applied for intervention pleading immediate release of her husband.

"Hence the issue regarding maintainability of the petition filed by the Petitioner-Association as contended by the respondent has lost its significance," the bench said.

The apex court passed the order after perusing the medical reports of Kappan which stated that the journalist had tested COVID-19 positive on April 21, 2021, having fever and had also suffered an injury as he fainted and fell down in the bathroom for which intervention of a surgeon was suggested.

It noted that Kappan was referred to K M Medical College which revealed that he was having multiple health issues like diabetes, heart ailment, blood pressure and bodily injury.

However, the next set of medical reports and the additional affidavit circulated by the state show that he has tested COVID-19 negative, it stated.

"It may be noted that various legal issues were advanced before us, however the enquiry before this Court is limited to providing adequate health care to the accused, in line with the limited relief, ultimately sought by the counsel for the petitioner.

"Accordingly, this court is not called to examine detailed facts on merits," the bench said.

Advocate Wills Mathews, appearing for KUWJ and Kappan's wife, said that he be granted interim bail in the case besides being provided with proper medicines and treatment.

On Tuesday, the top court had asked the UP government to submit medical records of Kappan after KUWJ alleged that he had been chained to a cot in the hospital after he fell in the bathroom and later tested positive for COVID-19.

The state has refuted the allegations that Kappan has been chained to a cot at the hospital and said it would file a short reply on his medical records by tomorrow.

Kappan's wife Raihanth Kappan recently wrote to CJI Ramana seeking his immediate release from the hospital, alleging he is "chained like an animal in a cot" there.

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 PFI.

The police had said it arrested four people having links with the PFI in Mathura -- Siddique from Malappuram, Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur.

Kappan was arrested on way to Hathras, which has been in the news 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.

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