Toolkit case: Nikita Jacob gets pre-arrest bail
The Bombay high court on Wednesday granted protection from arrest for three weeks to Mumbai-based lawyer Nikita Jacob, accused of helping edit a social media toolkit on the farm protests, even as Delhi Police said it was expanding its probe into the alleged plot to foment unrest in the Capital.
Jacob, 30, applied for transit anticipatory bail after a non-bailable warrant was issued against her in Delhi earlier this week. The 30-year-old approached the high court after Delhi Police’s cyber crime unit raided her residence on February 11, and seized her computer and phone in connection with the toolkit.
Another activist, Beed resident Shantanu Muluk, who is accused of creating the document, already received protection from arrest for 10 days by the high court on Tuesday; climate activist Disha Ravi is in jail in Delhi and faces charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy and intending to riot.
The police’s decision to charge Bengaluru-based Ravi has stoked allegations of muzzling dissent and procedural lapses – though the police have repeatedly denied these charges.
“The applicant (Jacob) apprehends that she will be arrested at any point of time. She has to make arrangements to seek relief from a court in another state. Hence, this court is of the opinion that protection as sought by the applicant can be granted for a temporary period,” justice PD Naik said.
The court said if Jacob is arrested in the three-week period, then she shall be released after furnishing a bond of ₹25,000. “There is nothing in the toolkit about violence, it is only for creating awareness about farm laws, it’s not for creating violence,” said Sanjukta Dey, Jacob’s lawyer.
Delhi Police say the document, first publicised by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg on February 3 in support of farmers agitating against three central laws, aimed to spread misinformation, incite unrest and was linked to clashes in the Capital on Republic Day.
On Wednesday, Delhi Police said the activists prepared a second document to organise a Twitter storm aimed at “creating unrest” in the Capital on February 4 and 5 but could not execute it. Investigators said the second document was created by Jacob, Muluk and a UK-based activist identified as Marina Patterson, who is allegedly linked with the global movement “Extinction Rebellion” also referred to as “XR”. According to its website, Extinction Rebellion is an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.
“The plan mentioned in the second toolkit, however, could not be executed. We suspect it happened because the toolkit was accidentally tweeted by Thunberg on February 3, the day Ravi shared it with her and coaxed her to act on it. Since the Google toolkit documents contained objectionable content, Ravi panicked, asked Greta to delete the tweet, took the admin rights and removed her name from the toolkit,” said a senior police officer associated with the case, requesting anonymity.
Police said they will now focus on the woman identified as Patterson. “The UK-based woman joined them. She made a package and added to the document through hyperlink. The toolkit was accidentally published when she was simultaneously editing it. She wrote that police are attacking protesters... many injured, many disappearing and many individuals are already reported dead. This was created to mislead in future,” a second police officer said.
Investigators also focused on a WhatsApp group named “International Farmers Strike” allegedly created on December 6 by Ravi. Police said Jacob joined the group on December 11 while pro-Khalistani group Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) members joined it the following day.
Read more: HT Editorial: Disha Ravi’s arrest is wrong
Muluk was added on December 6 and the trio allegedly attended a virtual meeting by PJF on January 11.
The activists denied the charges with Jacob’s lawyers telling the high court that the toolkit meant to provide digital support for the farmers’ protest and not violence.
Muluk’s father Shivlal Muluk also told Beed Police that a computer hard disk and other items were seized from their house, allegedly without a search warrant, on February 12, according to PTI.