Disha Ravi and the Bail Order – Exploring the Reasons

Disha Ravi, a 22-year-old climate change activist, who was detained by the Delhi Police in connection with the "toolkit" conspiracy case was granted bail by the Delhi Sessions court on Feb 23. The allegations or grounds of her arrest, as contended by the Delhi Police, were involved in the seditious act under Section 124A of IPC, promoting enmity between groups on grounds of caste, religion, race, language etc under Section 153A of IPC and 'criminal conspiracy' under Section 120A and 120B of IPC. The Delhi Police have made allegations/claims that Disha Ravi with Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk collaborated to implement the plan on the ground to incite 'disaffection' against the government established by law and violence on Republic Day by providing support to secessionist Khalistani groups through social media campaigns in the guise of ongoing farmer protests in Delhi and its surrounding areas.

The bail granted by the Delhi Sessions Court in its order passed by Justice Dharmender Rana is being welcomed by every believer who placed their faith in the Indian judiciary. All hue and cry related to this matter settled once the objectivity of this case manifested itself in the public domain. The court firmly rejected the argument presented by the government against Disha Ravi and other co-accused in this matter on several grounds and lack of evidence to prove anything substantial and of importance. One of the arguments presented by the prosecution was that the actions of Ravi 'allegedly' instigated the violence on January 26. However, the Court gave not much weight to this view and stating that there was nothing on record to suggest that any call, incitement, instigation or exhortation on the part of the applicant/accused i.e. Disha Ravi or organizations like 'Poetic Justice Foundation', PJF, and its associates involved in the violence of January 26. Further, the court stated that there is no evidence presented by the Delhi Police to show a connection between the accused and the violent protesters at the scene on the ground even though more than hundreds of individuals involved in the violence were arrested and interrogated by the Delhi Police."In the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused 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, simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation," stated the court order.

Another point where this particular case attracted attention was the angle of "global conspiracy" and leaked Toolkit which revealed a large chain of people involved in this matter. The government alleged that this Toolkit was made or manufactured by secessionist organizations working against the Indian government to disrupt peace and hijack the ongoing farmers protest facilitating anti-India ideas. But the approach of the court's order regarding the toolkit conspiracy stated otherwise. "The 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 court stated in its order. Further, the order mentioned that "the right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. In my considered opinion, freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience. There are no geographical barriers to 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 audiences abroad". Hence, the court explicitly explored the ambit of Art-19 to seek a global audience.

WhatsApp group by the name of “International Farmers Strike” was another "fact in issue" to be contested in granting bail to Disha Ravi. It was submitted that Disha deleted the group chat from her phone in an attempt to destroy shreds of evidence linking her with the toolkit and PJF. She was alleged by the government to be one of the editors of the toolkit. It was further contended by the prosecutor that she tried her best to conceal her identity so that legal action could not be taken against her. To these allegations, the judge in his order said "In my considered opinion, creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence. Further, since the link with the said too is not found to be objectionable, mere

deletion of the WhatsApp chat to destroy the evidence linking her with the toolkit and PJF also becomes meaningless. Further, it is rightly pointed out by Ld Defence Counsel that the protest march was duly permitted by the .lhi police. It would be worthwhile to observe that there is nothing on record to suggest that the applicant accused subscribed to any secessionist idea. The prosecution has, except for pointing out that applicant/accused forwarded the toolkit to Ms Greta Thunberg, failed to point out as to how the applicant/accused gave global audiences to the ‘secessionist elements". The case of the prosecution was predominantly based on some conspiracy theories rather than objective evidence to substantiate the truth and reasonably prove anything against Disha Ravi. It's true that collecting evidence in cases of conspiracy and establishing it beyond any doubt is difficult but the fact that what is difficult for the prosecution in the affirmative is virtually impossible for the defence to prove in the negative and the present case is a classic in itself where allegations are highly controversial but the evidence to back such claims is not manifested by the prosecution.

"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," said the order granting bail to Disha Ravi subject to a personal bond of ₹ 1 lakh. Bail order of Disha Ravi will be celebrated for long as it has shown us the mirror that any government for whatever reasons it deems fit to them can restrict your freedom in the guise of any legislation, evidently whose usage has been more of silencing criticism and dissent than actually convicting the perpetrators. Yes, the law and legislation are of and regarding the law of sedition.

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