Terming the ‘toolkit’ shared by climate change activist Disha Ravi as “innocuous”, a Delhi Court on Tuesday granted her bail. Ms. Ravi was arrested for sharing the ‘toolkit’ relating to the ongoing farmers’ protest against the three contentious farm laws.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana said, “The perusal of the said ‘toolkit’ reveals that any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent”.
Dealing with the interpretation of the word ‘sedition’, a charge slapped by the Delhi police on the 22-year-old activist, the judge said, “Law proscribes only such activities as would be intended, or have a tendency, to create disorder or disturbance of public peace by resort to violence”.
“There is not even an iota of evidence brought to my notice connecting the perpetrators of the violence on January 26, 2021, with the said PJF (Poetic Justice Foundation) or the applicant/accused (Ravi),” the court said terming the evidence against Ms Ravi as “scanty and sketchy”.
“Citizens are conscience keepers of government in any democratic Nation. 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 remarked.
The court highlighted that the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) S.V. Raju had, during the course of the hearings, conceded that there is no direct evidence establishing the link between Ms Ravi and the violence that took place on January 26 in Delhi.
The court also pointed out that the ASG had admitted that PJF is not a banned organisation and even no criminal action is pending against its founders, Mo Dhaliwal and Anita Lal.
On the Delhi police’s allegation that Ms. Ravi gave a global audience to the secessionist elements by manipulating support of international youth icon Ms. Greta Thunberg, the court said, “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”.
AS-G Raju had alleged that the ‘toolkit’ has embedded hyperlinks with an intent to malign India abroad. But the court said there was “absolutely nothing objectionable” in the hyperlink ‘askindiawhy.com’ embedded with the ‘toolkit’.
On another hyperlink ‘Genocide.org’ embedded in the ‘toolkit’, the court concurred with the ASG that the imputations are really objectionable in the website.
“However, even if the said imputations are found to be objectionable in nature, I cannot but disagree with AS-G that the said material is seditious in nature,” Judge Rana said, adding, “The imputations may be false, exaggerated or even with a mischievous intent but the same cannot be stigmatised being seditious unless they have tendency to foment violence.”
The Delhi police had alleged that Ms. Ravi along with her associates under the pretext of protesting against the farm laws have resolved to vandalize Indian Embassies and specifically attack symbols of India i.e. Yoga and Chai.
“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 co-conspirators,” the court said.
“Conspiracy cannot be proved merely on the basis of inferences. The inferences have to be backed by evidence,” the court noted. It added, “In my considered opinion creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence.”
“In the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused (Ms. Ravi) agreed or shared a common purpose to cause violence on January 26 with the founders of PJF, it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported the secessionist tendencies or the violence caused on January 26,” the court added.