The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday gave 10-day transit bail to activist Shantanu Muluk in connection with the campaign document case about the farmers’ protest, reported Live Law. The Principal Bench of the High Court, however, reserved its verdict till Wednesday on the transit bail plea of Mumbai advocate Nikita Jacob, who is a co-accused in the case.

The Delhi Police have issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Jacob and Muluk. On Monday, Jacob and Muluk filed pleas in the Bombay High Court for transit anticipatory bail.

The Delhi Police have claimed that both of them had attended a Zoom call with a “pro-Khalistani” organisation in Canada called the Poetic Justice Foundation, to chalk out the modalities related to the farmers’ protests against the new agricultural laws.

Muluk’s counsel contended that the charge under Indian Penal Code Section 153-A (promoting enmity) was a blatant abuse of legal provisions to subdue the voice of rightful dissent, according to Bar and Bench. The activist also asserted that he and his colleagues were innocent and had genuine intentions with relation to the farmers protest.

During Tuesday’s hearing, advocate Hiten Venegaokar, representing the Delhi Police, submitted a preliminary objection to Jacob’s transit bail plea, according to Bar and Bench. The lawyer argued that there was no provision of transit bail under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The Delhi Police also submitted that the offence had been registered in the Capital, and no cause of action had arisen here. To this, Justice Prakash Deu Naik said: “You only have to show how the transit bail application is not maintainable”.

The High Court also sought Muluk’s transit bail plea order.

Meanwhile, the Delhi Police counsel agreed not to take any action against Jacob till the pronouncement of the order on Wednesday, reported Live Law.

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The bail pleas

Muluk said in his bail plea that he was only supporting the farmers fighting for their livelihood and that a “vendetta” was being pursued against him, Bar and Bench reported.

“Apparently vendetta has trickled down from politics to the house of a common man making a mockery of the rights and principles enshrined in the constitution of the India,” he said. “That such vendetta which is the dark face of authoritarianism and is the real tool kit for devastation of not only of democracy but also basic human rights.” The activist said that the “blot of being an anti-national” would be destructive for his life and family.

Muluk submitted before the Aurangabad Bench of the High Court that Delhi Police personnel have been stationed in his home district Beed for the last three days, The Indian Express reported. He alleged that the police have collected a lot of material without following laid-down procedures.

The activist told the court that the police have been badgering his elderly parents, and that transit anticipatory bail would be a “rightful chance to preserve rights in all humanity”.

Meanwhile, Nikita Jacob said in her bail plea that she might be arrested in a false and frivolous case. She sought four weeks’ time and protection from coercive action. “The applicant has not committed any crime, as appears to have alleged or otherwise,” it added. The applicant is unable to defend herself as she is a permanent resident of the address in Mumbai and the alleged complaint/FIR is lodged in Delhi and contents of same are not known to the applicant.”

Jacob also said that personal information about her was being circulated on social media. She alleged that certain “unethical” news channels have also been spreading lies about her.

“In view of continuing investigation, there is an apprehension that in spite of cooperating with the investigating machinery, the applicant may be arrested due to political vendetta and media trial,” her bail application said, according to The Indian Express. “The applicant is unaware of the fact whether she is an accused person or a witness as her name is nowhere mentioned as far as she is aware of alleged FIR.”

What happened

The non-bailable warrants against Jacob and Muluk were issued after 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi was arrested in Bengaluru for allegedly editing and circulating the document that authorities say is anti-government. The “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – was first tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in support of India’s protesting farmers on February 4.

A Delhi court on Sunday sent Ravi to police custody for five days. The police alleged that Ravi was the editor of the “toolkit” and the “key conspirator” in its formulation and dissemination. The police alleged that Ravi had collaborated with a “Khalistani group” to “spread disaffection against the Indian State”. Her arrest has triggered widespread outrage.

Earlier this month, the police, while filing the first information report in the case, said the “toolkit” was aimed at waging a “social, cultural and economic war against the government of India” and creating divisions among various groups in Indian society. Ravi is the first person to be arrested in the case.