"We are confined to health issue. It is in the interest of the state also that the accused gets better treatment," the bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and A S Bopanna observed.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday 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.
Keeping in mind the basic human rights of an accused, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana headed bench granted the relief and directed the state to provide medical treatment to the Kerala-based scribe.
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 and his wife, seeking his release from alleged illegal detention.
“Taking into consideration facts of the case, we dispose of the writ petition. Even though Solicitor General Tushar Mehta very seriously opposed the contention, we are directing the state to shift the accused to RML or AIIMS hospital here or wherever treatment can be done,” said the bench.
Mehta, who strongly opposed the top court's suggestions, said that the bench may also pass direction to the hospital concerned to vacate one of the beds for 42-years-old Kappan, which are now fully occupied by COVID patients.
The bench, however, refused to pass any such directions and told Mehta that the state government can arrange a bed for him and “we leave it at that”.
Earlier in the day the bench asked Mehta to seek instructions from the UP government on whether Kappan can be shifted to a hospital outside the state for better treatment.
Mehta, after taking instruction told the bench that it is dealing with a non-COVID patient, whose medical report is before the top court and there are 40-50 coronavirus patients with some or no co-morbidities in Mathura jail but they are not getting beds in hospitals.
“Since last year, I have been asking this man to approach a competent court for bail but he is adamant and not approaching it. In this petition before the court, there is not even prayer for bail or shifting for better treatment,” Mehta 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.
At the outset, the bench said it was confined to the limited issue of granting better health facilities to Kappan and asked whether he could be allowed medical treatment in Delhi.
“We are confined to health issues. He has health problems like blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments. He has precarious health conditions. You have to consider this. He is in custody of the state. You have to protect him. It is in the interest of the state also that the accused gets better treatment,” the bench observed.
Justice Bopanna said that notwithstanding the petition filed by the KUWJ, there is also a petition filed by Kappan's wife, which seeks his release.
“Can't this court direct for better treatment. You forget about the petitions. Life of a citizen is important. Tomorrow, no one should be able to blame us, that he was not given better treatment,” the CJI said.
Mehta said he had objections to the suggestion and was ready to constitute a medical board to ascertain his ailments and advice and only then the court should take a call on his shifting to the hospital in Delhi.
The bench then told Mehta that whether there was any embargo on the court that while entertaining a habeas corpus petition, it cannot go for a lesser relief of bail.
Mehta said that from Kappan's possession, police had recovered an Identity card of a newspaper, which was shut in 2018 and he has association with Popular Front of India, which in turn is associated with banned organization Students' Islamic Movement of India.
The bench asked Mehta whether PFI is a banned organisation to which he replied that many states have done so and as per his information “Centre is also in process to ban PFI”.
The bench said, “So, as of now it is not banned”.
Mehta while reading from an affidavit filed in December last year said, “No. Many officer bearers of PFI were found to be associated with SIMI”.
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.