A court in Delhi disposed the anticipatory bail applications filed by Nikita Jacob, Shantanu Muluk and Shubham Kar Chaudhari in connection with their alleged role in sharing an online handbook meant to raise support for months-long farmer protests, Bar and Bench reported.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana said that if the arrest of the three people becomes unavoidable, an advance notice of seven working days will be given to them by the Delhi Police. During these seven days, the accused may avail their legal remedies, and seek protection from arrest.
During the hearing, the Delhi Police argued in favour of taking the three into custody, saying that the investigation was still in its initial stage, according to Live Law. The deputy commissioner of police also expressed the need for custodial interrogation on the grounds that Jacob, Muluk and Chaudhari made false statements during inquiry, and “deleted certain incriminating materials” from their phones and other devices.
“We are dependent on foreign companies for giving us information,” the police officer told the court. “Even though they deny they were not on Zoom call, we will have to see. We will not like to have a situation where we are denied custodial interrogation at any stage.”
Counsel for Jacob and Muluk argued that they worked for an environmental campaign called Extinction Rebellion, and had no association with any secessionist ideology, especially the Khalistani movement. The advocate appearing for Chaudhuri argued that he was merely a liaison officer for the campaign’s South Asia region and that he had not even seen the “toolkit” in question.
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. Authorities say the document is anti-government.
The Delhi Police had issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Jacob and Muluk in the case after they arrested 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi in Bengaluru for allegedly editing and circulating the document.
The Delhi Police claimed that Muluk, Jacob and Ravi, had attended a Zoom call along with an organisation in Canada, the Poetic Justice Foundation, to chalk out the modalities related to the farmer 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.
On February 23, Ravi was released from custody after a Delhi court granted her bail.