The Delhi High Court on Wednesday gave the Centre and the police one last chance to file their reply on a plea by climate activist Disha Ravi concerning media leaks in the farm protest documents case, reported Bar and Bench. She has sought to restrain the police from leaking the investigation material in relation to the first information report filed against her.
A bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh granted two weeks’ time to file the counter-affidavits and listed the matter for hearing on May 18.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma and advocate Ajay Digpaul, appearing for the Centre, and advocate Amit Mahajan, representing the Delhi Police, sought more time to file their replies, reported PTI.
Ravi was arrested on February 13 in a case filed by the Delhi Police in connection with an online document, referred to as a “toolkit”, intended to help amplify farmer protests. The “toolkit” – a common term used by social activists for campaign material – was tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Ravi was released from Tihar Jail on February 23 after nine days in custody.
Besides restraining the police, Ravi’s petition also sought to stop the media from publishing the content or extract of any private chats between her and third parties.
In her petition, Ravi has claimed that she was “severely aggrieved and prejudiced by the media trial surrounding her arrest and the ongoing investigation, where she is being viscerally attacked by the respondent 1 [police] and several media houses”.
The petition asserted that such conduct went against her presumption of innocence and violated her right to a fair trial.
Ravi has claimed that the police first “leaked investigative material” to the media and that it was “highly likely” that the general public would see the news items “as being conclusive” of her guilt.
On February 19, the High Court had asked media houses to ensure that no leaked investigation material was broadcast and directed the Delhi Police to abide by its stand on affidavit that they have neither leaked nor intend to leak any details to the press.
The High Court had said that it will deal with the removal of content that was already in the public domain at a later stage.
The farm protest document
Following her arrest, Ravi was sent to police custody for five days on February 14. The next day the police claimed that Ravi, along with lawyer Nikita Jacob and activist Shantanu 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 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”.