New Delhi, February 23
In a blow to Delhi police, a court here Tuesday granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi, arrested in connection with allegedly being involved in sharing a “toolkit” on social media related to the farmers” protest, terming evidence produced by police as “scanty and sketchy”.
Disha Ravi was released from Tihar Jail in the evening, an official said.
The court said there is nothing on record to establish any direct link between Ravi and proKhalistan activists of ‘Poetic Justice Foundation’ (PJF) and also there is not even an iota of evidence brought connecting the perpetrators of the violence on Janury 26 with the PJF or her.
Creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence, says court
Further, it observed that there is nothing on record to suggest that the activist subscribed to any secessionist idea and there is absolutely no link established on record between her and banned outfit Sikhs for Justice.
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana, who granted relief to Ravi on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and two sureties of like amount, noted that the accused had “absolutely no criminal antecedents”.
“Considering the scanty and sketchy evidence available on record, 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,” the judge said.
The judge said 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. 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,” the court said.
The court said the difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter, even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies.
“An aware and assertive citizenry, in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy,” the court said.
“The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution. 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,” the court said.
It said that 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,” the court said.
While observing that there is nothing on record to suggest that the applicant accused subscribed to any secessionist idea, the court said “further, the prosecution has, except for pointing out that applicant/accused forwarded the toolkit to climate activist Greta Thunberg, failed to point out as to how the applicant/accused gave global audience to the ‘secessionist elements’.”
The court said it was conscious of the fact that it is very difficult to collect evidence for the offence of conspiracy.
“I’m also conscious of the fact that the investigation is at a nascent stage and police is in the process of collecting more evidence, however, the investigating agency made a conscious choice to arrest the applicant accused upon the strength of material so far collected and now they cannot be permitted to further restrict the liberty of a citizen on the basis of propitious anticipations,” the court said.
It said conspiracy cannot be proved merely on the basis of inferences which have to be backed by evidence.
While holding that there is nothing on record to establish any direct link between Ravi and pro-Khalistan activists of PJF, the court said “Still further, there is nothing on record to suggest that there was any call, incitement, instigation or exhortation on the part of the applicant/accused and the abovesaid organisations and its associates to foment violence on Janury 26, 2021.”
As long as the engagement/interaction remains within the four corners of law, people interacting with such persons, ignorantly, innocently or for that matter even fully conscious of their dubious credentials, cannot be painted with the same hue, it said.
“In the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused agreed or shared a common purpose to cause violence on Janury 26, 2021 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 Janury 26 simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation.
The court directed that Ravi shall continue to cooperate with the ongoing investigations and shall join the investigation as and when summoned by the Investigating officer and not leave the country without the permission of the court. The court noted that more than hundreds of persons involved in the violence have been arrested and interrogated by the Delhi Police but no evidence connecting the accused with the actual perpetrators of the violence has been brought forth on record by the prosecution till date. PTI
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