A court in Delhi on Monday sent 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi to one day of police custody in connection with the farm protest document case, Bar and Bench reported. This came a day before an additional sessions court is set to pronounce its order on Ravi’s bail plea.
Ravi was held for allegedly sharing and editing a document intended to help the protests against the new farm laws. The Delhi Police had filed the case after beginning an investigation when Swedish activist Greta Thunberg tweeted the campaign document to support the farmers’ protest on February 4.
During the hearing on Monday, the Delhi Police sought five more days of custody of Ravi. They said they wanted to interrogate her along with two co-accused – activist Shantanu Muluk and Mumbai-based advocate Nikita Jacob. The Delhi Police had also issued non-bailable arrest warrants against Muluk and Jacob in the case. However, they have both been granted transit anticipatory bail.
The public prosecutor argued that during interrogation Ravi had shifted the burden to other accused, which made it imperative for the police to question her in the presence of others.
The prosecutor refused to share the details of the case over fears of “hampering the investigation”, but said that the document in question had hyperlinks that take you to “different pages which are very dangerous”.
He then referred to the Zoom call, which the police claim Ravi, Jacob and Muluk attended, along with an organisation in Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation. 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 story starts on January 11 when there is a Zoom meeting,” the prosecutor told the court. “We are tracing the other participants. There were Dhaliwal, Anita Lal, Nikita and Shantanu.”
The prosecutor alleged that one Dhaliwal and Ankita Lal run the Poetic Justice Foundation, which he claimed carries “anti India publications”. “They raise slogans that are anti India,” he added. “There is an International Farmers Strike WhatsApp group.”
The police claimed that there was a close nexus between all the accused. “Nikita shares the toolkit with Dhaliwal,” the prosecutor said. “On February 3, Disha sends it to Greta Thunberg. On the same day, the toolkit was deleted. Because it has against India hyperlinks.”
Besides them, the police alleged there were 60 to 70 more people who participated in the Zoom meeting. “We are investigating the case... experts are needed,” they argued. “We can’t close all evidence until we confront her [Ravi].”
Based on these facts, the prosecutor said the Delhi Police had “no other option but to confront Ravi” along with the other accused. “These facts are here,” he added. “I won’t say more.”
The prosecutor also asked why the police remand was seen as a punishment, when it can be favourable for Ravi, Live Law reported. “Why the accused is seeing as if something wrong will come against her in police custody remand?” he asked.
He claimed that this was “not a petty case”, but one that had “ transnational ramifications”. “This is why the new application is led today so that we can facilitate the investigation”, the public prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, advocate Siddharth Agarwal, appearing for Ravi, opposed the demand for five-day police custody, pointing out that that they had already kept the activist in custody for five days once she was arrested, reported Live Law. After that, she was in judicial custody for another three days.
Agarwal argued that granting further custody will impact the bail order, which is expected on Tuesday. He submitted that the new remand application raises more or less the same points mentioned in the first remand application.
“This is an attempt to overreach my bail application,” Agarwal submitted.
The farm protest document
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.