Almost two years after he was arrested and booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act by Uttar Pradesh Police, Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan was granted bail Friday by the Supreme Court. The apex court's order has been welcomed by the journalist community by and large.

Speaking to The Citizen P.K. Manikandan, member of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) said, "He finally got the justice he deserved, but there was a deliberate attempt to delay all the procedures from the part of the government and the police."

Manikandan has been one of the prominent voices and instrumental in fighting for justice for Kappan.

Talking about the case, the Kerala based journalist said, "A chargesheet is the basic right of an accused person. Even that was not properly given by the UP police. Even now, Kappan hasn't received the full copy of the chargesheet."

Meanwhile, lawyer of Kappan Will Mathews, who had represented him previously for the habeas corpus petition heaved relief over Kappan's order. "We are hoping to see him come out soon," he added. According to Ishan Baghel, the lawyer appearing for Kappan, the journalist will not walk out of jail despite the bail because of the money laundering charges against him.

The Uttar Pradesh Police arrested Kappan on October 5, 2020, along with three other men while they were travelling to Hathras where a Dalit woman was gangraped and killed by four upper-caste Thakur men on September 14, 2020.

On Friday, a bench comprising Chief Justice UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat directed the Uttar Pradesh government to produce Kappan before a trial court within three days for release on bail subject to conditions that would ensure his presence in the trial in the UAPA case.

Setting bail conditions in the present case, the Supreme Court bench said that the journalist will have to stay in Delhi for the next six weeks and mark his presence at the city's Nizamuddin police station. After that, he can go back to his home in Kerala but will have keep reporting to the police, they added.

In a statement KUWJ said that the UP Police and the UP Government tried to delay and "scuttle the case even at the stage when the KUWJ approached the Supreme Court with a Habeas Corpus petition for Mr. Kappan's release".

"The court wanted to know what exactly had been found against him, and also noted the length of custody undergone," the statement added.

The court said in its order that it would not make any comment on the progress of the investigation at this stage. However, it took into consideration the amount of time Kappan has spent in custody and the "peculiar facts and circumstances of the case".

Meanwhile, the Delhi Union of Journalists, welcomed the Supreme Court and said, "Though delayed, this bail order is most welcome. We now hope that bail will also be granted to Kappan in another case filed against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) and he will be out of jail."

The judges directed Kappan to attend proceedings before the trial court "on every single date" either in person or through a lawyer.

Appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani told the court that documents found with the journalist spoke of "justice for the Hathras girl". He argued that Kappan and co-accused persons were going to Hathras with an intention to create unrest, Bar and Bench reported.

However, the court said that every person had the right to free expression. "He is trying to show that the victim needs justice and raise a common voice," the court said. "Is that a crime in the eyes of law?"

Kappan had moved the Supreme Court after Allahabad High Court had denied him bail on August 2 saying that he had no work in Hathras.

On August 23, the Allahabad High Court granted bail to Mohammad Alam, one of the persons travelling with Kappan and booked under the UAPA.

Alam is a member of the Islamic organisation Popular Front of India, while the other two accused persons are Atikur Rahman, the national treasurer of the Campus Front of India, and Masud Ahmed, the general secretary of the outfit's Delhi unit.

Rahman's family has approached the Lucknow High Court as the activist's health deteriorated after a heart surgery.

Cover photograph: Kappan`s little daughter who had made a passionate appeal for his release.