How Judge Dharmendra Rana demolished Delhi Police’s ‘scanty and sketchy’ claims on sedition against Disha Ravi

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A local court in Delhi on Tuesday granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi in the toolkit case and chided the Delhi Police for presenting ‘scanty and sketchy’ evidence against her build a case of sedition.

The court made it clear that there was nothing in the toolkit shared by Swedish climate activist on 3 February that amounted to a criminal offence. The order by Judge Dharmendra Rana said, “The perusal of the said ‘Toolkit’ reveals that any call for any kind
of violence is conspicuously absent. In my considered opinion, Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic Nation.”

The court questioned the trend for arresting ordinary citizens merely based on their criticism of the government. It said, “They cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies. The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments.”

Judge Rana said that promoting differences of opinion has been an integral part of Indian heritage. Quoting verses from Hindu scripture Veda, the judge said, “This 5000 years old civilization of ours has never been averse to ideas from varied quarters. The following couplet in Rig Veda embodies our cultural ethos expressing our respect for divergent opinions. आ नो भदाः कतवो यनतु िवशवतोऽदबधासो अपरीतास उिददः। अथर­ हमारे पास चारो ओर से ऐंसे कलयाणकारी िवचार आते रह ेजो िकसी से न दबे, उनहे कही सेबािधत न िकया जा सके एवं अजात िवषयो को पकट करने वाले हो। (Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions).”

The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of The Constitution of India. In my considered opinion the freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience. There are no geographical barriers on communication. A Citizen has the fundamental rights to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication, as long as the same is permissible under the four corners of law and as such have access to audience abroad.”

To justify their decision to arrest Disha Ravi, the Delhi Police had claimed in the court that Disha Ravi and other co-accused, Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk, created a WhatsApp group by the name of ‘Intl farmers strike’ and added certain persons in the group. The Delhi Police had argued that Disha deleted the group chat from her phone in an attempt to destroy the crucial evidence linking her with the toolkit and PJF. Disha was also accused of being one of the editors of the toolkit and she ‘tried her best to conceal her identity so that legal action could not be taken against her.’

The Delhi Police had said that the 22-year-old activist from Bengaluru provided a global audience to the secessionist elements by manipulating the support of Greta Thunberg. Disha’s co­-accused Shantanu had allegedly come to Delhi to ensure the execution of the plan, according to the police.

The judge rejected the attempts by the Delhi Police to link the toolkit to the 26 January violence as he noted in his order, “In my considered opinion creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence. Further, since the link with the said toolkit or PJF has not been found to be objectionable, mere deletion of the WhatsApp chat to destroy the evidence linking her with the toolkit and PJF also becomes meaningless. Further, it is rightly pointed out by Ld Defence Counsel that the protest march was duly
permitted by the Delhi police therefore there is nothing wrong in coaccused Shantanu reaching Delhi to attend the protest march. Still further, the attempt to conceal her identity seems to be nothing more than an anxious effort to stay away from unnecessary controversies.”

The court said that the prosecution had failed to point out how the ‘applicant/accused gave global audience to the ‘secessionist elements’ by merely forwarding the toolkit to Greta Thunberg.

The judge also rubbished the Delhi Police’s claims that Disha alongwith other accused had attempted to vandalise Indian embassies specifically attack symbols of India i.e. Yoga and Chai ‘under the pretext of protesting against the farm laws.’ “Except for a bare assertion, no evidence has been brought to my notice to support the contention that any violence took place at any of the Indian Embassies pursuant to the sinister designs of the applicant/accused and her co­conspirators,” the judge said in his order.

Judge Rana concluded his order by terming the evidence presented by the Delhi Police against Disha Ravi was ‘scanty and sketchy.’ He said, “I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of ‘ Bail’ against a 22 years old young lady, with absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society, and send her to jail.”

Disha was arrested by the Delhi Police on 13 January in the Greta Thunberg toolkit row from her house in Bengaluru. She was sent to five days of judicial custody by a Delhi court before Judge Rana sent her to one day of police custody.

Judge Rana had grilled the Delhi Police in the last hearing asking the cops to establish the link between the toolkit document and the 26 January violence at the Red Fort. The Delhi Police had found themselves in considerable discomfort. 

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