A Delhi Court on Saturday reserved orders on the regular bail application filed by 22-year old climate activist Disha Ravi, who was arrested by Delhi police from her Bangalore residence on February 13 in the case registered over the 'farmers protest toolkit' shared by global environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana of Patiala House Courts put up the bail application for orders on Tuesday(February 23), after a 3-hour long hearing.
The Additional Solicitor General, SV Raju, appearing for the Delhi Police, in essence submitted that Disha Ravi was in contact with pro-khalistani organizations 'Sikhs For Justice" and 'Poetic Justice Foundation', and created the 'toolkit' to incite hatred against India under the garb of farmers protest. The ASG submitted that Disha tried to delete the electronic records of her chats and documents, and this suggested a "prima facie guilty mind".
During the hearing, the judge asked if there was any evidence linking the 'toolkit' to the January 26 violence.
"What exactly is the evidence collected by you against this lady connecting her to the violence perpetuated on Jan 26?Is there any evidence, or are we required to merely work on surmises, conjectures?", the judge asked.
The judge also asked if an imputation can be made against a person merely on the basis of her association with another person or organization.
The ASG replied that conspiracy is not something which can be "seen or touched" and it has to be gathered from the circumstances.
"The conspiracy is not that I knew a particular person and told them to commit violence, but that I created a document which I knew and intended to incite violence. The conspiracy is in the meeting of the minds", the ASG said.
"Should I presume there is no direct link now?", the judge asked in return. The ASG replied that police are still investigating.
The judge also remarked during the hearing that he has a "bad habit" of not moving ahead until his judicial conscience is satisfied.
"I have a bad habit. I can't move ahead until I satisfy my judicial conscience".
Advocate Siddharth Agarwal, appearing for Disha Ravi, said :"I am a girl 22 years of age, living in Bangalore, a graduate, whose history, geography, past, present or future, have nothing to do with Khalistan".
"They have not indicated a single conversation between Sikhs For Justice and her. They don't even say that Sikhs For Justice organization is connected to Poetic Justice Foundation", Agarwal said.
"FIR states that I have attacked chai and yoga. Is this the parameter for sedition?", Disha's lawyer
Agarwal argued that Disha was merely organizing a peaceful protest and it cannot be brought under the offence of sedition under Section 124A IPC.
"If the offence is that I protested peacefully, I'm guilty! If the offence is that I advertised about this peaceful protest, I'm guilty. If this is the parameter, I'm definitely guilty
For instance, if there is yoga. And I prefer kung fu over yoga. Will I become a Chinese spy? I'm not saying this. It's in their FIR. We're reducing the bar of someone having a different point of view.
Their allegations in the FIR state that I have attacked chai and yoga. Is this the parameter for sedition?"
The toolkit does not create any "disaffection against India" and cannot be regarded as seditious.
"The upshot of 124A is an utterance or communication. If the communication here is of the Toolkit, there is no disaffection in the Toolkit. Neither on a plain reading, nor on a reading through the ASG's eyes. Their case is not that the Toolkit is seditious but that these persons are bad",, Agarwal continued.
Mentioning that Section 124A even provides for a punishment of only a simple fine, Agarwal submitted :
"I am not saying that I should be exonerated on this basis, but kindly consider that at the end of the day, there is a possibility that I may get away with merely a fine".
Agarwal also attacked the Prosecution submission that Disha's custody was required to ascertain if she had more mobile phones or laptops.
"I am extremely surprised, they are saying there could be more mobiles, more laptops.. in my 5 days worth of policy custody, I was not even taken to Bangalore, no raid was conducted.My case is, were they sleeping while I was in custody?"
Pointing out that the co-accused Advocate Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk have been granted transit anticipatory bail by the Bombay High Court, Agarwal undertook that his client will also appear before the police for investigation as and when called for, if released on bail.
"My purpose is merely seeking a balance between my right to liberty and their right to investigate. The balance was in their favour on the first day, but now it's in my favour", Agarwal submitted.
Toolkit not seditious;merely a call for protest
Agarwal submitted that there is no evidence to indicate that the Toolkit was responsible for anything. Their case is that when they read the Toolkit they have certain feelings invoked.
"Their case is that whatever has happened anywhere in the world is because of this Toolkit. In Rome, some graffiti was stuck on the embassy, or on the Red Fort a flag hoisted, their case is that it's all because of the Toolkit...It merely tells people to come forward, join the march and go back home...This march was permitted by the Delhi Police. It was on the basis of this that people came forward", he argued.
"If I sent or encouraged people to take part in this march, I become seditious?They were asked to make representations to government offices, is this sedition?
The toolkit talks about digital strike, this doesn't mean the Gulf Strike. Physical action called for in Embassies, Ambani, Adani offices - doesn't mean throwing stones. These are tools for people to express their feelings across the globe".
Responding to the ASG's arguments that the deletion of WhatsApp evidence suggested criminality, Agarwal submitted :
"A person may run for two reasons - either he is guilty or to save himself from wrong persecution. A person may have fears of wrong prosecution, unfortunately, for this girl, her fears have come true.In such a scenario, even if a 22-year old girl has deleted chats, which you have access to in 17 other sources, and can recover and have recovered anyhow, kindly look at the issue in that light only".
Yesterday, Additional Chief Metropolitan Chief Magistrate Aakash Jain had remanded her to 3-day judicial custody accepting the demand made by Delhi police.
The Public Prosecutor Irfan Ahmed told the Court that notice has been send to co-accused Shantanu Muluk(who has been granted 10 days transit anticipatory bail by Bombay High Court Aurangabad Bench)asking him to join investigation on February 22. The Prosecutor further submitted that Disha was "evasive" during the interrogation and tried to shift blame on the co-accused.
The Prosecutor submitted that the ACMM had granted 3-days judicial custody of accepting this argument. However, the Addl Sessions Judge replied that the fact that remand has been allowed accepting the said argument is not a bar to consider the bail application.
When the Prosecutor handed over a sealed cover envelope, the ASJ required it to be produced along with an affidavit.
Conspiracy against India in the name of farmers protests, ASG submits
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju submitted that a Canada-based outfit named "Poetic Justice Foundation", having pro-Khalistan leanings, was involved in the farmers protests. The ASG said that this group has been "inciting hatred against the Government of India" through its Instagram posts.
Disha Ravi made a Zoom call with the 'Poetic Justice Foundation' - which was looking for an Indian face- on January 11.
"There was no need for them to have this Zoom call with this organization whose credentials are well known", the ASG said.The accused was creating a conspiracy with the PJF.
"The 'toolkit' may look innocuous, but it is not as innocuous as it is made to appear. The final toolkit was also shared with PJF", the ASG submitted. There were Khalistani elements in the group who wanted a flag to be hoisted at the Red Flag.
The 'toolkit' document, which was supposed to be for internal circulation, got leaked in the social media.
"They panicked and deleted. If there was nothing wrong, they wouldn't have deleted parts of the Toolkit, WhatsApp chats, etc.Tey have systematically deleted evidence that's why now we have also added S.201 IPC".
"This is only a facade, they took advantage of farmers' protests and furthered their agenda. Innocent persons would think it was only for farmers protests", the ASG added.
The ASG submitted that the 'Toolkit' has been very cleverly designed and that one of the hyperlinks takes one to a page which talks about Kashmir, defames the Indian Website.
Referring to the website of 'Genocide Watch', ASG Raju submitted that it talks about the cutting off of internet in Kashmir, the "crushing of Kashmir's right to self-determination by Indian Army." It warns India not to commit genocide on Muslims in Kashmir. It says the genocide process is underway in Assam.
Reading out such contents, ASG Raju said that the 'toolkit' was not really about farmers protests. In the garb of protesting against farm laws, they were giving a call for people to assemble for "anti-national activities". The idea is that when one reads the 'Toolkit' it directs a reader to other websites with content against India.
" Before this violence on Jan 26, they had prepared templates with certain details to be shared by persons. They have infact even prepared templates of what kind of tweets must be shared by people on social media", the ASG said.
The ASG pointed out that the templates mentioned in the document had statements like "many protesters reported missing.", "many shown dead", "police using tear-gas shells, water cannons".
"Why have these been shared to post in the future?" ASG asked. He further mentioned that $250,000 award was announced to anyone who hoists the flag of Khalistan on Red Fort.
The ASG alleged that Disha Ravi was one of the editors of the 'toolkit'. After the document got leaked, Ravi tried to delete things, to cover her tracks, which shows a guilty mind "prima facie".
The prima facie investigation has shown links to Vancouver, which the ASG called the "hot-bed of Khalistani activities".
The sharing of the 'toolkit' with PJF shows that the intention was not farmers protests but something "more sinister".
Raju further submitted that Disha lied to the police on several aspects such as creating WhatsApp groups. The links with Khalistani groups attract the offence of sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code.
"She was afraid that her identity would be revealed which is why she asked Greta Thunberg to remove the document. This shows the guilty mind, she was aware, she knew the sinister design behind the Toolkit. She knew this design would be found out, that is why there was an attempt to remove the original Toolkit and create a new one. She was aware of the criminality of her actions", the ASG continued.
He argued that Ravi's further custody was necessary to examine the electronic document and to unravel the larger conspiracy.
Can imputation be made against a person for association with another organization? Court asks ASG
During the hearing, the Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana asked :
"To satisfy my judicial conscience, I need you to answer, if I am a person emotionally attached to a particular movement/cause, and for the same I get involved with persons who have different methods without being aware can the same imputation be made against this person also?"
"If I've approached a dacoity for donations, can the imputation of dacoity be invoked against me also?", the judge further asked.
The ASG replied that the the larger conpiracy angle must be seen and that in a conspiracy, everyone may not have an equal role. When a person closely associates with persons of dubious credentials, like Dhaliwal of PJF, it must be presumed that the person was aware of the same.
"Your Honour would appreciate that this needs to be read in the background that people were asked to move to Delhi - for hoisting of the Khalistani flag, etc. Your Honour would need to look at this in that background. It is not merely asking people to come to Delhi", the ASG submitted.
"This is not a simple Toolkit, if one were to look at the background, it would be clear that these are persons connected to the Khalistani movement - one is presumed to know this", the ASG continued.
The ASG also emphasized that Disha tried to cover up the tracks by deleting evidence.
"My query is...is there any evidence, or are we required to merely work on surmises, conjectures?", the judge asked.
Court : What is the link between the toolkit and Jan 26 violence?
ASG : In a conspiracy, everyone may not have an equal role. Our point is that through this, those connected to the Khalistani movement were instigated.
ASG: Because the Toolkit says do this, do that..
Court: This is exactly what I'm alluding to. What is this do this, do that?
"What exactly is the evidence collected by you against this lady connecting her to the violence perpetuated on Jan 26?", the judge asked.
She was arrested from her Bangalore residence on February 13 by the Delhi police in a case registered over the "toolkit" shared by international activist Greta Thunberg related to the farmer's protest on social media.
The Bombay High Court has granted three-weeks transit anticipatory bail to co-accused Advocate Nikita Jacob in the case.
The Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police had lodged an FIR on February 4 against unnamed persons over the 'toolkit' shared in connection with coordination of farmers protests. The case against unnamed persons was registered on charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition and various other sections of the Indian Penal Code, the police said. Ravi's was the first arrest made by the police in the case.
Ravi has filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court aggrieved by the media reportage about her. On Friday, a bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh observed that media should exercise editorial discretion to avoid sensationalism which could hamper the investigation in the case. The bench also directed the Delhi Police to ensure that no media leakage happens in compliance with the stand taken by it in its affidavit.