A court in Delhi on Tuesday gave condition to climate activist Disha Ravi, saying there was little evidence and outline to support the insurgency allegations against her and claiming that citizens could not be imprisoned simply because they disagreed with the policies of government.
Extra hearing judge Dharmender Rana released the 22-year-old activist with a personal link to 1 loop and two guarantees of similar amounts, approximately 10 days after she was arrested by the Delhi Police in Bengaluru for allegedly editing a social media document, or toolkit, in connection with farmers’ ongoing protest against the three laws central.
The judge ruled that Ravi had nothing to do with the pro-Khalistani organizations, the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) and Siks for Justice, and that there was no evidence linking him to the violence that rocked Delhi on Republic Day.
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Given the scant evidence and available sketch recorded, I do not find any tangible reason to violate the general rule of bail against a 22-year-old young lady, with flawless criminal predecessors and strong roots in society and send to jail, said the judge.
The court also said that the call for any kind of violence was clearly missing in the toolkit and no evidence was recorded to suggest that Ravi was enrolled in dissociative ideas. Activists have repeatedly said the manual is a harmless document used by social media campaigns for strategy and planning.
In my consideration, citizens are the conscience of government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose not to agree with state policies. The act of insurgency could not be claimed from the injured government vanity minister, the court kept in its 14-page order.
The court said that change of opinion, disagreement, divergence, disagreement, or on that issue, even disapproval, have been recognized as legitimate means to fill objectivity in state policies. A conscious and confident citizen, as opposed to an indifferent or obedient citizen, is unquestionably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy, the order said.
As the order was read, a visibly excited Ravi had tears in his eyes. She shook hands with two relatives in court. She was released from Tihar prison late at night. In Bengaluru, her family and friends welcomed the news. I feel a sense of relief and I am very happy. The trust I had in the judiciary of our country has increased, said Manjula, her mother.
Ravi, part of the Indian wing of Fridays for the Future, a global climate change movement founded by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, was arrested on February 13 and charged with rioting, criminal conspiracy and incitement to riot. Police said Ravi, along with two other activists, created the toolkit to spread misinformation and incite unrest as part of a global conspiracy. The arrest sparked widespread outrage.
On Tuesday, the court rejected the policy argument and said it could not be assumed in the assumptions or conjectures that Ravi supported segregation tendencies or violence, simply because it shared a platform with people who gathered to oppose farm laws.
The right to disagree is firmly enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution. In my opinion, freedom of speech and expression includes the right to demand a global audience. There are no geographical barriers to communication. A citizen has the fundamental right to use the best means of giving and receiving communication, as long as it is permissible under the four corners of the law and as such has access to the audience abroad, the court said.
The court instructed Ravi to continue cooperating with the ongoing investigation, to join the investigation as and when summoned by the investigating officer, and not to leave the country without the court’s permission.
The judge said creating a WhatsApp group or editing a toolkit was not a violation. Further, since the link to the said toolkit or PJF has not been found to be contradictory, simply deleting the conversation on WhatsApp to destroy the evidence linking it to the toolkit and PJF also becomes meaningless, the court said.
The court held the tractor rally on January 26 was allowed by the Delhi Police and therefore there was nothing wrong with co-accused Shantanu Muluk, a Pune-based engineer, to reach Delhi to attend the event. Muluk, and another defendant, Mumbai-based lawyer Nikita Jacob, are out on bail.
The court said Ravi was questioned by the Delhi Police Special Cell for five days and imposing any further restrictions on her freedom on the basis of the general charge would be neither logical nor legal. The judge also quoted passages from the Rig Veda and said that Indian civilization was never disgusted with different ideas.
This 5000-year-old civilization of ours has never been an aversion to ideas from different neighborhoods. Even our founding father gave due respect to the disagreement of opinion by recognizing freedom of speech and expression as an inviolable fundamental right, the court said.
The court said that apart from a naked allegation, no evidence was brought to the register to support the allegation that any violence occurred at any Indian embassy following the allegedly evil schemes of the accused and co-accused.
Speaking of the toolkit, which police said was part of a global conspiracy to defame India, the judge said he was shown two hyperlinks with links to two websites where he could not find anything controversial. He also rejected the public prosecutors’ argument that the material on the second website was tempting.
Imputations may be false, exaggerated or even with a diabolical purpose, but the same can not be saturated being tempting if they do not tend to incite violence, the judge said.
He also said that the police are in the process of gathering more evidence and so can not be allowed to further restrict a citizen’s freedom based on good predictions.
The court noted the appearance of additional attorney general SV Raju to the police that more than 100 suspects involved in the violence were arrested and questioned by Delhi Police but no evidence was found linking Ravi to the clashes.
Activists called it the historic order. This is a historic and constitutional moment … this is how the judiciary is supposed to work, said environmental activist Leo Saldanha.
(with agency inputs)
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