Disha Ravi gets bail in toolkit case: Key points of the order
A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi days after the Delhi Police arrested her for allegedly editing a social media document, or toolkit, about the ongoing farmer protest against three central laws. Here are some key points from additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana’s bail order:
1. Toolkit did not incite the tractor rally violence on January 26 in Delhi:
According to the prosecution, Ravi and the other accused in the case allegedly edited and shared with Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg the toolkit with the intention of inciting seditious activities against India. But Rana found nothing illegal or unlawful about the document. He acknowledged the toolkit had segments on “Digital Strike” through hashtags, “Tweet Storm” and “Physical Action” related to the farmers’ march into Delhi. But Rana pointed out that “any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent.”
About the alleged sharing of the toolkit with Thunberg, the court said every citizen has a “right to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication, as long as the same is permissible under the four corners of law and as such have access to [the] audience abroad.”
2. Do not invoke sedition when it is legitimate dissent:
Rana cited the distinction between sedition and dissent and questioned if Ravi and others were being targeted because they voiced opposition to the farm laws.
Additional solicitor general SV Raju, who appeared for the police, contended the toolkit had embedded hyperlinks with an intent to defame India abroad. Rana found nothing objectionable about one of the two links. About the second link, he agreed it was “indeed objectionable” as it had certain negative imputations about India but held it was still “not seditious” because it did not have the tendency to foment violence.
Rana underscored the significance of dissent in a democracy. “Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic Nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies. The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments.”
3. No evidence against Ravi or Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) of conspiracy with secessionist forces:
The police sought Ravi’s custodial interrogation citing her alleged links with the pro-Khalistani secessionist group, PJF. They claimed she created the toolkit in association with the PJF members. Canada-based Mo Dhaliwal and Anita Lal were cited as the people behind PJF, who are allegedly known Khalistan supporters.
The police conceded that neither was the PJF a banned organisation nor had they registered any criminal case against Dhaliwal and Lal.
The court too held there is nothing on record to suggest that there was any call, incitement, instigation, or exhortation on the part of the accused and the organisations and their associates to foment violence on January 26 during the farmer tractor rally.
Rana said that there was “not even an iota of evidence” to connect the perpetrators of the January 26 violence with the PJF or Ravi. He added that over 100 people allegedly involved in the violence had been arrested and interrogated “but no evidence connecting applicant [Ravi] with the actual perpetrators” has been brought forth.
About Ravi’s links with Canada-based Kisaan Ekta Co, the court noted the police had not even alleged that it was an organisation engaged in seditious activities. Hence, her association would be meaningless for the purpose of this case, it added.
The police also failed to establish any link between Ravi and Sikhs for Justice, a banned organisation. “There is absolutely no link established on record between the applicant and the said banned organisation,” Rana said. He added that “there is nothing on record to suggest that Ravi subscribed to any secessionist idea.”
4. Creation of a WhatsApp group or editing a toolkit is not an offence:
The prosecution alleged Ravi deleted a WhatsApp group called “Intl farmers strike” and also edited the toolkit after it was leaked by Thunberg. But the court said the creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous toolkit is not an offence. “Further, 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,” said Rana. He called deleting chats “nothing more than an anxious effort to stay away from unnecessary controversies.”
5. Cannot keep Ravi in jail to allow police to collect more evidence:
The court told the police that it could not allow them to keep Ravi behind bars only to give the investigators more time to collect evidence or to make her sit with other accused.
Former additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra said the points made in the bail order will be beneficial to the co-accused as well. “Although parity may not be a ground in a case of a regular bail and anticipatory bail which other co-accused have filed, the scrutiny of the evidence by the court will come into play when their cases are taken up.”