Order on Disha’s bail reserved for Tuesday
A Delhi court on Saturday reserved its order on the bail plea of 22-year-old Disha Ravi, who is facing sedition charges for allegedly amplifying violence during a farmers’ protest by creating an online “toolkit”, even as the climate activist’s counsel said there was no evidence to show that the document was responsible for the violence on January 26.
Even as additional sessions judge (ASJ) Dharmender Rana asked the Delhi Police to present anything that could link the “toolkit” with the violence and, consequently, the conspiracy for which Ravi was charged, the police said the case was still being investigated.
Ravi was arrested from Bengaluru on February 13 by Delhi Police for allegedly creating and sharing the protest toolkit backing the farmers’ agitation against the Centre’s new farm laws. Delhi Police claimed on Monday that Ravi, along with Mumbai-based lawyer Nikita Jacob and Pune engineer Shantanu Muluk, created the toolkit and shared it with others “to tarnish India’s image” and that “pro-Khalistani” elements were included in the document. The two have already been granted transit anticipatory bail by the Bombay high court.
If highlighting the farmers’ protest globally was sedition, then she was “better in jail”, activist Ravi told the Delhi court.
During the three-hour hearing, the judge asked the police whether they had any evidence that the “toolkit” incited violence during the tractors’ rally. “How is the toolkit connected to the violence? What is the evidence? Is there is any evidence or are we acting on the basis of surmises and conjectures?” the judge asked the police.
To this, additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju told the court that in a conspiracy, people could have different roles. He said that someone inspired by the toolkit could have been instigated to commit violence. Raju told the court that the document will have to be read along with the hashtags and links it contained, which were meant to “instigate people asking them to come on streets thus resulting in public disorder”. He said that because of the toolkit, some elements put a flag on the Red Fort as the document had a list of tasks to be undertaken to support the cause of the Khalistani movement.
“First is the violence…Toolkit precedes the violence. Go inside Delhi, do this, do that,” Raju said.
The court asked the ASG: “What’s ‘do this and that’? What is the link? Unless I satisfy my conscience, I don’t move ahead”.
Raju contended that the “toolkit” had to be read along with the hashtag and links, which were of seditious nature.
“It is not a simple message. The links are inciting people. Asks them to march into Delhi…. People are being told there is genocide in Kashmir… It defames the armed forces and talks about Assam.
“The result was public disorder and disturbance of public peace… The toolkit showed India is bad country, it is killing Muslims. The flag was hoisted… We still want to investigate. We will certainly discover other things… We will be required to have a second look,” Raju said.
The court, however, said: “What exactly is the evidence against this lady connecting her with the violence? Please don’t be repetitive. Apart from Khalistani link and that she was in touch… How do you connect the actual actors with these conspirators,” the court said.
The investigating officer said that Ravi was connected to Poetic Justice Foundation, a Vancouver-based organisation. “The execution of conspiracy is different from the conspiracy. Conspiracy is meeting of minds. The requirement of law is that conspiracy is complete. Others have different roles. My intention was that a person reads the toolkit and gets swayed by it,” Raju said.
The judge sought to know from the police whether the actual actors were arrested or not and whether any link was established. It asked whether there is any link between the conspiracy and the offence. “Should I assume that for now, there is no direct link? Have you arrested the actual actors? Have you established any link? Either I’ve not framed my query correctly or you don’t want to answer it. What is connecting in link between the conspiracy and the offence,” the judge said.
Additional public prosecutor Irfan Ahmed told the court that the “toolkit” had embedded links which directed readers to various anti-India websites.
The court sought to know whether there was a documentary evidence to show that the “toolkit” had incited violence. It also sought to know how “chai” and “yoga” were used to tarnish India’s image, as alleged by the probe agency.
The police said that it was the entire “toolkit” of which “chai” and “yoga” were also a part, which are symbols being used to defame India. The police said that after the “toolkit” was leaked on social media, a cover-up operation was carried out and many of its parts were deleted. After this, sections 201 and 204 of the Indian penal Code (IPC) – which deal with destruction of evidence – were added against the activist. The ASG also said that the “toolkit” had a cheatsheet which contained information which defames the Indian Army and had nothing to do with the farmers’ protest.
“Ravi had the right to edit the toolkit and she later deleted everything. This is the working of a guilty mind,” said the lawyer, adding that the “toolkit” was part of a “sinister design”. He said that a co-accused, Shantanu, was sent to Delhi to ensure the proper execution of the “toolkit”.
During the hearing, the court also sought to know the past antecedents of Mo Dhaliwal and Anita Lal, founders of Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) and asked as to how the police were ascertaining that they were supporting the Khalistani movement.
Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal told the court that Ravi’s work and her cause were meant to save the environment and she did not intend to “sow disaffection”. “There is no disaffection being spread by the toolkit. It is just a digital document. My history has nothing to do with Khalistan. My connection is not with Sikhs For Justice or PJF. In this case, it is clear that thinking otherwise is attracting sedition,” Ravi’s lawyer Aggarwal told the court on behalf of his client.
“I have no connection with the Khalistan movement, whatsoever. There is no single chat or conversation between me and the (banned organisation) Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) produced by the Delhi Police,” the counsel argued. He also contended that speaking to a secessionist did not make Ravi one too.
The court reserved its order and said that it would pronounce the verdict on Tuesday.
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