Climate activist Disha Ravi was on Tuesday granted bail by the Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) at Delhi in a sedition case related to the Toolkit.
The bail is subject to furnishing two sureties of Rs one lakh each.
“Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on record, I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of ‘Bail’ against a 22 years old young lady, with an absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society, and send her to jail”, Judge Dharmender Rana said.
Referring to the controversial toolkit, Judge Rana pointed out that any call for any kind of violence was conspicuously absent.
“In my considered opinion, citizens are conscience keepers of the government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with State policies. The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments”, said ASJ Rana.
He added that even our founding fathers accorded due respect to the divergence of opinion by recognising the freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right.
The judge pointed out there was nothing on record to suggest that Disha Ravi subscribed to any secessionist idea.
“The prosecution has, except for pointing out that applicant/accused forwarded the toolkit to Ms. Greta Thunberg, failed to point out as to how the applicant/accused gave global audience to the ‘secessionist elements’”, the court noted.
On the issue of the creation of a WhatsApp group and deletion of chats, the court opined that the creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit was not an offence.
“Since the link with the said toolkit or PJF has not been found to be objectionable, mere deletion of the WhatsApp chat to destroy the evidence linking her with the toolkit and PJF also becomes meaningless”, the court said.
The young activist was arrested on the basis of an FIR filed on February 4 by the Delhi police’s cyber cell against “unknown persons” for sharing the controversial ‘Toolkit’ on the ongoing farmer’s protest on social media platforms. This toolkit was tweeted by renowned climate activist Greta Thunberg, drawing global attention to the protests of farmers in India.
The sections in the FIR include 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting hatred amongst various communities on social/cultural/religious grounds) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Court Saturday sought to know from the Delhi police the evidence to connect the Toolkit with the Republic Day violence during the tractor rally.
ASJ Dharmanedra Rana had asked the Additional Solicitor General (ASG), SV Raju whether there was any direct link to the Toolkit or “do we have to make conjectures and inferences here?”
These observations were made by the court while hearing a bail plea filed by 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi who is facing sedition charges in connection with the Toolkit case.
Opposing the bail request, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju, for the Delhi Police, said Ravi’s custody was required to confront her as she had tried to put the blame on the other two accused. He further said that if the 22-year-old was enlarged on bail, the purpose of the custodial interrogation would be frustrated.
Raju submitted that the Toolkit was also shared with the Poetic Justice Foundation – a secessionist organisation that advocates for Khalistan. He added that Ravi deleted WhatsApp chats, emails and other evidence as she was aware of the legal actions she could face.
“Why did Disha Ravi cover her tracks and delete evidence if she did not commit wrong?” the police asked, alleging that this showed her “guilty mind and sinister design”.
ASG Raju went on to state that the Toolkit was not as innocuous as it appeared. It was shared with the Poetic Justice Foundation which showed again intent and sinister design. The Toolkit needed to be seen in this background, ASG said.
“This was not just a Toolkit; The real plan was to defame India and create unrest”, Raju argued.
The ASG added that large volumes of data still needed to be analysed as the investigation had just been initiated. He, thus, vehemently urged the court not to grant bail as it could hamper the investigation.
He also stated that there was also the need to check if Disha had any other laptop or mobile phone. “We do not know yet, we need to find it out, and if she is released on bail, she may tamper with the evidence,” Raju argued.
“Ravi used her own phone number to make the WhatsApp group. She used it to tweet with Greta Thunberg. On 03.02.2021 the conspiracy was unearthed because of Greta’s tweet”, Raju submitted.
He added “Disha asked Greta Thunberg to delete the document. If it was so innocuous, why did she ask Greta Thunberg to remove it? This shows there was a sinister plan behind this toolkit.”
Rejecting the allegations of the Delhi police, advocate Siddharth Agarwal, for Disha Ravi, submitted that there was no evidence to link Ravi with Sikhs For Justice, a banned organisation.
“if highlighting farmers’ protest globally is sedition, I am better off in jail”, Agarwal told the court.
Referring to the FIR, Agarwal said some of the allegations were that Yoga and ‘Chai’ were being targeted. He questioned whether that was an offence?
Agarwal submitted that the police had no material to show that the Toolkit instigated people to commit violence. They had arrested a total of 149 people. “Did they (police) find even a single person who had read the Toolkit or was in touch with Disha?”
“Toolkit does not say anything which incites violence. It merely tells people to come forward, express solidarity and join the march. “If I sent or encouraged people to take part in the march, do I become seditious?” argued Siddharth Agarwal, for Ravi.
Disha Ravi was arrested on Saturday, February 13, by the ‘Cyber Cell’ of the Delhi police, from her residence in Bengaluru. The following day, she was taken to New Delhi and remanded to the custody of the police for five days by the duty magistrate of the Patiala House court in New Delhi.