Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana, while granting bail to 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi in connection with the farm protest document case on Tuesday, said the “toolkit” shared and edited by her did not call for any violence. The judge also held that editing the document did not amount to any offence.
The climate activist was arrested by the Delhi Police earlier this month for allegedly sharing and editing a document intended to amplify the protests against the new farm laws. The “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – was also tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
Here are five things the court said in the bail order:
“...Creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous toolkit is not an offence,” Rana said, in his order. As for the lack of intent to incite any sort of violence through dissemination of the document, the court said that citizens “cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state policies”.
Furthering his observation, the judge said that since the “toolkit” was not found to be objectionable, mere deletion of WhatsApp chats by Ravi to destroy evidence linking her to the document, became “meaningless”, Live Law reported.
On sedition charges
The court also said there was nothing on record to suggest that Ravi “subscribed to any secessionist idea”.
It held that the Delhi Police had failed to establish that the climate activist gave “global audience to secessionist elements”, apart from pointing out that the “toolkit” was forwarded to Thunberg. The judge in his order, highlighted that accusations cannot be called seditious unless they have the “tendency to foment violence”.
“The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments,” the order read.
On freedom of speech and expression
The court upheld that the right to dissent was guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution, suggesting that the founding fathers of the country “accorded due respect to the divergence of opinion”.
“In my considered opinion the freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience,” the judge said. “There are no geographical barriers on communication.”
On personal liberty
Noting that Ravi had undergone interrogation in police custody for about five days, the court held that putting further restraint on her liberty will be “neither logical nor legal”. The judge said that in this scenario, Delhi Police’s opposition to Ravi’s bail plea was “more of ornamental in nature”.
On lack of evidence
The court order further pointed out that the police could not present any evidence to back its contention that Ravi and her associates did any act of violence at Indian Embassies, of which she was accused.
“I am conscious of the fact that it is very difficult to collect evidence for the offence of conspiracy but I’m equally conscious of the fact that what is difficult to prove for the prosecution in the affirmative is virtually impossible for the defence to prove in the negative,” the judge said.