Human rights organisation People’s Union For Civil Liberties on Thursday condemned the “witch hunt” against climate activist Disha Ravi in the farm protest document case. On Tuesday, a Delhi sessions court granted her bail on two sureties of Rs 1 lakh each.
The human rights organisation demanded that the state withdraws prosecution against Ravi, co-accused and advocate Nikita Jacob, and activist Shantanu Muluk and others “falsely implicated” in the case. It also asked for Section 124-A that deals with sedition to be repealed.
“The Central government and other governments should immediately stop the witch hunt of young people, farmers and activists who are expressing their fundamental right to free speech, dissent and assembly seeking accountability, transparency and responsibility from the government, its agencies and officials,” the statement said.
“Laws such as UAPA [Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act] which criminalise the freedom to think, express and associate must also be repealed immediately.”
The organisation noted the observations of the judge who granted bail to Ravi, and said that it hoped that the Delhi Police and the Centre viewed the order as a reminder that speaking out or doing so with a global audience was not a crime. “PUCL hopes that the Government realizes the error of its ways and withdraws this egregious prosecution against Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk,” it said. “This is vital as though Disha Ravi is out on bail, this case will continue unless the government takes proactive action to stop this malicious prosecution of India’s young climate activists.”
The statement added that the first information report made a mockery of the Constitution and was an effort to “paint dissent, disagreement and protest as a grand anti-national conspiracy”.
The organisation highlighted that the sessions judge in his ruling had “vindicated the struggle of the many ordinary citizens”, who had outraged at this “executive outreach” and held protests, candlelight vigils, and wrote open letters. “The Learned Judge correctly appreciated the contours of sedition noting that, ‘imputations may be false, exaggerated or even with a mischievous intent but the same cannot be stigmatized being seditious unless they have a tendency to foment violence’,” the organisation’s statement said.
It also noted the police action against Ravi consisted of violations in the legal process of arrest. “Ms Ravi suffered a series of egregious violations including abduction by the Delhi police from her home in Bengaluru in brazen violation of all legal procedures and constitutional protections, denial of the right to legal representation and most egregious of all-invocation of the sedition law for the mere fact that she choose to exercise her right to thought, expression and association,” the statement read.
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The farm protest document case
Ravi 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.
The first information report filed by the Delhi Police against creators of the campaign document claimed that it gave “a call for economic warfare against India and certain Indian companies”. It was 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 linked 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”.