The accused have been charged under the UAPA and the IPC for sedition and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion.
A Mathura Court has rejected the bail plea of three men who were booked and arrested along with Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, while they were on their way to a village in Hathras last month, Live Law reported on Saturday.
Atif-ur-Rahman, Masood Ahmad and Mohammad Alam, along with Kappan, were illegally detained on October 5 while they were travelling to meet the family of the 19-year-old Dalit woman from Hathras who was gangraped by four Thakur men. A day later, the four of them were booked under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including sedition.
Rehman is a student, Ahmad is an activist who is pursuing a PhD, and the third accused Alam, is a cab driver.
The Uttar Pradesh Police alleged that the four men are linked to the Popular Front of India, a Kerala-based organisation that the state government has sought to be banned for its alleged involvement in the violence during the protests against the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. The case registered against them relates to the alleged conspiracy to instigate riots along caste lines and defame the state government over the rape-and-murder case.
At a hearing on Friday, Additional District and Sessions Judge Mayur Jain rejected their bail applications, citing the “gravity of charges” against the four men, according to The Hindu. Besides sedition, the accused are facing charges of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion and deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings.
The court delivered three separate orders but all of them stated that the bail pleas were liable to be rejected due to the embargo created under Section 43D (5) of the UAPA that the Court could not grant bail.
Section 43D(5) of the UAPA states that bail cannot be granted to a person accused of being involved in terrorist activities if the public prosecutor has not been given a reasonable opportunity of being heard. It mandates that if the court is convinced, after receiving evidence from the case diary or report, that the accusations against the person are prima facie true, bail would not be granted to the accused.
In this backdrop, the judge observed that if the accused is facing prosecution under the UAPA, the court has to determine — on the basis of the material in the case or a chargesheet filed by the police — as to whether there are reasonable grounds for believing the accusations against them are true.
The court also took into account the allegations of the prosecution that the accused sought to create disharmony and sought to “propagate anti-national emotions among the youth”. “In this context, the the allegations against the accused are grave in nature,” the judge observed as he rejected the bail pleas.
Advocate Madhuvan Chaturvedi, appearing for the accused, told The Hindu they will approach the High Court for bail. “A habeas corpus petition of the three men is already listed in the Allahabad High Court and the hearing is on November 17,” he said.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists had filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court challenging Kappan’s custody. On October 12, a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde said it would hear a plea after four weeks and that the petitioner could approach the Allahabad high court in the interim.
Kappan’s petition is listed in the Supreme Court and is likely to be heard on November 16.
The rape case
On September 14, four upper-caste Thakur men had tortured and raped the Dalit woman. She died on September 29, a day after being moved to the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi. She had suffered multiple fractures and other serious injuries, and was left paralysed. The four men have been arrested. However, the woman was hastily cremated by police against her family’s will, while they had been locked indoors. This led to outrage and protests across the country.
The Uttar Pradesh Police filed 19 FIRs in connection with the case, claiming that there is an “international conspiracy” to defame the Chief Minister Adityanath’s government and to create caste-based tensions.
The Uttar Pradesh administration has also consistently denied that the woman was raped, based on a report from the forensic lab that had said there were no traces of sperm in samples taken from her. However, the chief medical officer at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College – where the woman was admitted – said the forensic lab’s report “holds no value” as it relied on samples taken 11 days after the crime was committed.