Delhi court grants bail to Disha Ravi over 'scanty, sketchy' evidence
A Delhi court on Tuesday granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi, arrested from Bengaluru on February 13, in Google toolkit document case, in view of "scanty and sketchy evidence" against "a 22-year-old young lady with absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and firm roots in the society".
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana, who reserved the order on Saturday said, "the perusal of the said 'toolkit' reveals that any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent."
In a strong rebuke to Delhi police, which claimed Disha through the toolkit tried to create disaffection among citizens, the judge, in 18-page order, said, "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."
Citing 'Rig Veda', the court said "This 5,000 years old civilisation of ours has never been averse to ideas from varied quarters. Holding that difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter, even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies".
The judge further pointed out that freedom of speech and expression included the right to seek a global audience.
The court noted the police, led by Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, fairly conceded that there is no direct evidence establishing the link between Disha and the violence that took place on Republic Day in Delhi. The court ordered Disha to furnish a personal bond of Rs one lakh and two sureties of equal amount and cooperate with the police in the probe.
With regard to allegations that the toolkit contained links to several websites intended to malign the country, the court said even if imputations were found to be objectionable, the said material was hardly seditious.
"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 court said.
The court also found nothing on record to suggest that Disha subscribed to any secessionist idea, contrary to claims by police "larger conspiracy" to perpetrate violence by forces inimical to the country.
"In the absence of any evidence, it cannot be presumed by resorting to surmises or conjectures that she also supported the secessionist tendencies or the violence, simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation."
The court also noted the police admitted no criminal action was pending against 'Poetic Justice Foundation' and its founders Mo Dhaliwal and Ankita Lal, who were allegedly behind the creation of toolkit.
"There is nothing on record to establish any direct link between Disha and Dhaliwal and Lal. Still further, there is nothing on record to suggest that there was any call, incitement, instigation or exhortation on the part of Disha and the organisations and its associates to foment violence on January 26," the court said.
It also said 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" also becomes meaningless.
The court said mere engagement with persons of dubious credentials is not indictable, rather it is the purpose of engagement which is relevant for deciding culpablity.
"Any person with dubious credentials may interact with a number of persons. As long as such engagement or 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," the court added.
The judge also pointed out there is not even an iota of evidence, connecting the perpetrators of the violence on January 26 with the said PJF or Disha.
The court found no link of Disha with a banned terrorist organisation 'Sikhs for Justice', which on January 11, declared a reward of $250,000 for anyone who will hoist the flag of Khalistan at India Gate on Republic Day.