On August 29, Monday, the Supreme Court of India will hear two important cases: the bail request made by Kerala journalist and UAPA suspect Siddique Kappan and the appeals made against the Karnataka High Court’s ruling on the hijab, which upheld educational institutions’ right to prohibit wearing the hijab on college campuses.
The bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat will hear Siddique Kappan’s bail request, and a bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia will hear the Hijab case.
The appeal of Bhima Koregaon defendant Gautam Navlakha against the Bombay High Court’s denial of his request to be relocated from Taloja Prison and instead be placed under house arrest will also be heard on Monday.
A bench consisting of Justice Bhat and CJI UU Lalit will also hear this case.
One of the first developments after Justice UU Lalit took the oath of office as CJI on Saturday is the listing of these cases.
Justice Lalit stated that his three top priorities as CJI will be to address the following three problems ailing the Supreme Court on August 26 at the farewell event organized for previous CJI NV Ramana:
- listing of cases
- Framework for mentioning urgent matters;
- setting up Constitution benches.
Siddique Kappan bail plea
While travelling to Hathras to cover the gang-rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit girl, Kappan, a reporter for the Malayalam news site Azhimukham and secretary of the Delhi chapter of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), was detained in Uttar Pradesh in October 2020 along with three other individuals.
According to the prosecution, Kappan and the other defendant were on their way to Hathras with the goal of upsetting the peace in the community. It was claimed that they were raising money to support a website that spreads false information and calls for violence.
They have all been accused of violating the Indian Penal Code’s Sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), Sections 65, 72, and 75 of the Information Technology Act, Sections 124A (sedition), Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion), and Sections 17 and 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
In July 2021, a Mathura court denied Kappan’s request for bail on the grounds that there was a strong presumption that he and his co-accused were aiming to undermine the legal system and other circumstances as they traveled to cover the Hathras gang rape crime in Uttar Pradesh.
Then he went up to the High Court.
Justice Krishan Pahal, a single judge, rejected the plea, stating that the prosecution had made a prima facie case that the defendant’s travel with a co-accused who was not a member of the media community and the use of questionable funds by him and his associates were significant factors in the prosecution’s case.
This prompted an appeal to be heard by the highest court.
Gautam Navlakha plea
Navlakha has appealed a Bombay High Court decision that denied his request to be relocated from Taloja Prison and given home arrest in its place.
Human rights advocate Navlakha, a former secretary of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, was detained in August 2018 but was first put under house arrest.
Following a Supreme Court directive, he was later transferred to Taloja Central Prison in Maharashtra in April 2020.
Navlakha petitioned the High Court, relying on the Supreme Court’s ruling in his default bail case, and arguing that Taloja was denying him access to basic medical care and other necessities, which was causing him considerable sufferings at such an elderly age.
However, a bench of Justices SB Shukre and GA Sanap rejected the argument, which led to an appeal to the Supreme Court.
On March 15, the Karnataka High Court upheld a Karnataka government order (GO) that effectively gave college development committees of government colleges in the State the authority to forbid Muslim female students from wearing hijabs on college campuses.
Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justices Krishna S. Dixit and J.M. Khazi made up a three-judge panel that had previously ruled that:
- The hijab is not a requirement for practising Islam;
- According to Article 19(1)(a), the requirement of uniforms is a fair restriction on the freedom of expression;
- The GO may be passed by the government; there is no evidence to the contrary.
There are at least three challenges against the Karnataka High Court decision currently pending before the Supreme Court, one of which was filed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.