Disha Ravi: Braveheart.

Disha Ravi: Braveheart.

Disha granted bail for want of evidence; court says editor of Toolkit no offence

Right to dissent enshrined under Article 19; not even an iota of evidence: Judge

Agency Report | New Delhi | 23 February, 2021 | 08:30 PM

Disha Ravi, the 22-year-old climate activist arrested February 13 in connection with the "toolkit" case and charged with sedition and conspiring against the country, was granted bail by a Delhi court subject to the provision of two sureties of Rs 1 lakh each. "Considering scanty and sketchy evidence on record, I do not find any palpable reason to breach the rule of bail for a 22-year-old girl who has absolutely no criminal antecedent," the judge said, adding, "... sedition cannot be invoked to minister to wounded vanity of the government".

Creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an “innocuous Toolkit” is not an offence, a Delhi court said on Tuesday as it granted bail to 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi in the ‘Toolkit’ conspiracy case.

Ravi faces charges of conspiracy and sedition in the ‘Toolkit’ conspiracy case related to the farmers’ agitation and was arrested from Bengaluru on February 13.

The Delhi Police had contended that the Google document tweeted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to back the farmers’ protest and then deleted, was created by Ravi and two other activists — lawyer Nikita Jacob and activist Shantanu Muluk.

“In my considered opinion, creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence,” said Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana.

It would be worthwhile to observe that there is nothing on record to suggest that the applicant accused subscribed to any secessionist idea, he added.

“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 accused and her coconspirators,” the judge said, allowing bail considering the “scanty and sketchy evidence on record”.

“I do not find any palpable reasons to breach the general rule of bail against a 22-year-old young lady, with absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society, and send her to jail.”

Ravi is already reported to have been interrogated in police custody for almost about five days and placing any further restraint upon her liberty on the basis of general and omnibus accusation would be neither logical nor legal, the Additional Sessions Judge said.

The court further noted that no specific article sought to be recovered from the possession of the accused has been brought to notice. The resistance to the bail plea seems to be more ornamental in nature, the judge added.

The judge said that Ravi deserves to be released on bail subject to the filing of a personal bond, and a surety bond in the sum of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties each in the like amount.

Conditions have also been levied on her which includes cooperation with the ongoing investigations, not leave the country without the permission of the court and not to cause any obstruction or delay to the probe’s progress.
Ravi has been directed to not leave the country, and cooperate with the ongoing investigation as a condition for grant of bail.

In his full order Additional Sessions, Judge Dharmendra Rana made several strong observations on the right to dissent and freedom of speech and expression.

“Even our founding fathers accorded due respect to the divergence of opinion by recognising the freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right. The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of The Constitution of India,” Judge Rana said.

He also dismissed Delhi Police claims that Ravi’s sharing of the ‘toolkit’ with teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg amounted to conspiring against the country.

“A citizen has the fundamental rights to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication, as long as (it) is permissible… to have access to audiences abroad,” he noted.

Judge Rana also dismissed arguments that Ravi had conspired with the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) – Delhi Police alleged that several Zoom calls were held by Ravi and Mo Dhaliwal in the days leading up to the Republic Day violence.

“… in the absence of any evidence (that) the accused shared a common purpose to cause violence (on January 26) with the founders of PJF (Poetic Justice Foundation), it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported secessionist tendencies,” he said.

“There is not even an iota of evidence brought to my notice connecting the perpetrators of the violence on 26.01.2021 with the said PJF or the applicant/accused,” Judge Rana added.

Meanwhile, Shantanu Muluk, an accused in the ‘Toolkit’ conspiracy case, filed an anticipatory bail application in a Delhi court on Tuesday.

Muluk, along with climate activist Disha Ravi and Nikita Jacob, are the three accused in the case. The Bombay High Court had granted transit anticipatory bail to him for 10 days on February 16.

Jacob and Muluk joined the investigation at Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell office in Dwarka on Monday. They were confronted with Ravi the same day after they were issued a notice to join the probe last week.

A ‘toolkit’ is a series of guidelines suggesting how a particular aim can be achieved. Toolkits chart out plans of action explaining topics at hand and offer suggestions that could be followed to achieve particular goals. (IANS)