Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government to transfer jailed Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan to a government-run hospital in Delhi for further medical treatment. With this, the top court disposed of the habeas corpus plea directing Kappan to seek regular bail before the appropriate court.
"Despite strong opposition from Solicitor General Tushar Mehta (he is representing UP), directing Kappan's transfer to a hospital in Delhi. After his recovery, he may be shifted to Mathura Jail following which he may follow procedure and apply for bail," the top court said disposing off the plea.
The top court's order came on a plea filed by Kappan's wife and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists who submitted that the journalist had fainted in the bathroom and later tested positive for COVID.
"He is presently hospitalized in KM Medical College, Mathura. It is reliably believed that more than 50 inmates of Mathura Jail are suffering from COVID, with various scarcities, and even drinking water from the toilet, seriously affecting hygiene, health, all leading to a major disaster in the making. In short, as on today, the life of Mr. Sidhique Kappan is in danger for all reasons," the plea seeking medical treatment said.
Kappan's wife Raihanth wrote a separate letter to Chief Justice of India NV Ramana alleging that her husband was "chained like an animal" to a hospital bed in Mathura.
The Uttar Pradesh police arrested Kappan on October 5, 2020, when he was en route to Hathras to cover the death of a Dalit girl who was allegedly gang-raped by locals. According to a plea filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), Kappan was going to meet the victim's family when he was picked up and charged with provisions under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
Earlier this year in January, the apex court had granted Kappan interim bail for a period of five days permitting him to visit his 90-year-old ailing mother in Kerala.
N0 Beds for Covid patients: UP to SC
The Supreme Court had indicated its intent to transfer Kappan to a hospital in Delhi after hearing arguments in detail. At the time, Mehta had strongly opposed this suggestion, following which the top court adjourned the matter till 1 pm, giving him time to respond.
When the court re-assembled, Mehta opposed the top court's suggestion on the grounds that there was no justification to transfer a 42-year-old man who had co-morbidities but was Covid negative when several thousands of COVID positive patients were struggling to find a bed.
"There are at least 54 inmates in Mathura jail who have co-morbidities. There are others who are COVID positive, with co-morbidities who are not getting beds, Mehta said referring to the stress on the health care infrastructure in UP.
"I also have been approached by many people seeking beds. In Delhi also, (COVID) positive people are not getting beds. I personally know journalists doing their best and struggling for their life (due to COVID). Despite much efforts, we could not get a bed. All of UP is struggling with this resurgence (of COVID)," Mehta added. "This man refuses from day one, to go to a regular court to apply for normal bail," he added.
"A medical board should decide if this man needs to be given a bed at the cost of a covid patient with co-morbidities. If there is a medical emergency, the state can undertake care immediately and hospitals in Mathura can examine him, Mehta added vehemently opposing the transfer.
Even after the bench led by CJI Ramana orally pronounced the gist of their order, a detailed one will be released later, Mehta told the court they would have to direct the hospital to transfer a COVID patient in order to accommodate Kappan.
"I know the (vacancy) of beds in real-time. There aren't any," Mehta had said.
The order is not out, hence, it is unclear whether any such directions have been made.