The Uttar Pradesh police's Special Task Force (STF) on Saturday filed a 5,000-page charge sheet against Kerala-based Journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested in October while he was on his way to Delhi to report on the alleged gang-rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras.
Kappan, along with seven others, were charged under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity) and 295A (outraging sentiments), Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA, and relevant sections of the IT Act.
The others include Popular Front of India (PFI) members Atiqur Rahman, Masood Ahmed, Rauf Sharif, Ansad Badruddin and Firoz Khan. It also includes Alam, who was driving Kappan at the time to Hathras, and his relative Mohammad Danish.
Kappan and three others were arrested and charged under the anti-terror law by the UP Police while they were travelling to report on the alleged gang rape of the 19-year-old girl- who died in the hospital.
The police used a section of the UAPA that deals with "raising funds for a terrorist act" in the FIR (First Information Report). Kappan has been arrested in Mathura since then.
Speaking to the media, the Defence lawyer Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi said, "We have not yet received a copy of the charge sheet. It's about 5,000 pages. Once we officially get a copy, we will study it and decide our course of action," NDTV reported.
According to officials, the charge sheet has more than 50 witnesses to back up the police charges. It claims that the accused intended to disrupt law and order in the area amid protests over the alleged rape and murder.
The UP administration's handling of Hathras case was significantly criticised, including their 'ill-treatment' of journalists and leaders who tried to visit Hathras. The police were accused of responding too slowly to the woman's complaint after she died of her injuries in the hospital. Her body was taken away by the police and cremated at 2 am in the family's absence.
The case was later taken over by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which filed a charge sheet against the four accused, and the trial is currently going on in a court in Hathras.
The UP government in December last year claimed in the Supreme Court that Kerala-based daily in which Kappan was employed as a journalist closed down two years back. They filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, which claimed that Kappan was going to Hathras under the "garb of journalism" with a "very determined design" to establish caste divide and disrupt law and order.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has appealed to the Supreme court for an independent investigation by a retired judge into Kappan's alleged "illegal arrest and detention." The KUWJ asserted that the UP police issued an absolute false and incorrect statement that Kappan was the Popular Front of India's office secretary.