A Delhi court on Saturday reserved its order in the bail application of 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi in connection with the farm protest document case, Bar and Bench reported. The Delhi Police arrested her earlier this month for allegedly sharing and editing a document intended to help the protests against the new farm laws. They had filed the case after beginning an investigation when Swedish activist Greta Thunberg tweeted the campaign document to support the farmers’ protest.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana will pronounce the bail order on Tuesday. During Saturday’s hearing, the judge asked the Delhi police several questions and said that he won’t move ahead until he “satisfies his conscience”. He asked what exactly is a toolkit and if the document in itself was incriminating. He also asked if the police have evidence to directly link Ravi with the January 26 violence in Delhi, according to Live Law.
Ravi’s counsel Siddharth Agarwal said that the “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – was merely a resource document and not seditious. “If highlighting the farmers protests on the global platform is sedition, then I’m guilty,” Ravi’s counsel said. “If thinking otherwise is a problem...we’re lowering the bar of thinking that someone may have an opinion different from ours.”
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the Delhi Police, opposed Ravi’s bail. He claimed that Ravi was evasive during investigation and added that she may tamper with evidence if released on bail.
Judge Rana asked how the police could impute wrong motives to a person only because they met certain people with bad intentions. While the police counsel repeatedly argued that Ravi had links with alleged pro-Khalistan organisations and was responsible for the January 26 violence, the court asked: “Is there any evidence? Or are we required to merely work on surmises, conjectures?”
“What is the evidence collected by you to show the link between her and the January 26 violence,” the judge asked, according to NDTV. “You have argued about her role in toolkit and she in touch with the secessionists.”
When the police counsel argued that “conspiracy can be seen only through circumstantial evidences”, the judge said: “So you don’t have any evidence to connect Disha with the January 26 violence?” He said that even after all the arguments, he had not got his answer for the connection between conspiracy and offence.
On Friday, the Delhi Police counsel had argued that it was necessary to make Ravi confront two other co-accused in the case, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk, while seeking three-day judicial custody. He had also claimed that Ravi had shifted the blame on them.
Raju reiterated this on Saturday and claimed that Ravi and Nikita Jacob were “local corroborators of a sinister plan”. He added that Ravi was closely connected to what the police claim is a “pro-Khalistani” organisation in Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation.
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The Delhi Police counsel said that after the “toolkit” was “leaked on social media”, Ravi and others carried out a cover-up operation and deleted many parts. He also claimed that the document had a “cheatsheet” that provided information that defamed the Indian Army. “This toolkit was clearly designed,” Raju claimed. “You are taken to sites that defame Indian Army...how Indian Army committed genocide in Kashmir.”
Ravi created the WhatsApp group whose function was to create the toolkit, Raju said, adding that she later deleted group chats on her links with Poetic Justice Foundation, thereby destroying evidence. “She asked Greta Thunberg to delete the document,” he added. “If it was so innocuous, why did she ask Greta Thunberg to remove. This shows there was a sinister plan behind this toolkit. Systematic effort was made to remove everything and completely replace the old content...The design was to defame India.”
The farm protest document
Disha Ravi was arrested on February 13 from her Bengaluru residence by the crime branch of the Delhi Police for allegedly sharing and editing a document intended to help the protests against the new farm laws. The next day, a Delhi court sent her to police custody for five days. It was extended to three more days on Friday. The “toolkit” was tweeted by Thunberg in support of India’s protesting farmers on February 4.
On February 15, the police had claimed that Ravi, Jacob and Muluk attended a Zoom call with what they claimed was a “pro-Khalistani” organisation in Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation, to chalk out the modalities related to the farmers’ protests against the new agricultural laws. The organisation is an advocacy group that often raises questions connected with human rights. However, the police claim it is promoting Khalistanism or Sikh separatism, a charge that the group denies.
The Delhi Police had also issued non-bailable arrest warrants against activist Shantanu Muluk and Mumbai-based advocate Nikita Jacob in the case. However, they have both been granted transit anticipatory bail.
The first information report filed by the Delhi Police against creators of the campaign document claims that it has given “a call for economic warfare against India and certain Indian companies”. The FIR in connection with the campaign document has been filed on charges of sedition, promoting enmity, and criminal conspiracy.
According to the FIR, Poetic Justice Foundation “openly and deliberately shares posts on social media that tend to create disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”.
The FIR also links the document to the violence that erupted in Delhi during the farmers’ tractor rally on January 26. It added that the farmers march turned violent because of “said instigation by elements behind this document and its toolkit”. During the rally, farmers broke through barricades and poured into the city, clashing with the police that tried to push them back with tear gas and a baton charge. One protestor was killed and over 300 police officers were injured in the chaos.