While activist Shantanu Muluk was granted 10 days transit bail by the Bombay High Court, the Court has reserved orders for the same in the case of activist and advocate Nikita Jacob. A single bench Vibha Kankanwadi had passed the order on Muluk matter, while Justice PD Naik has reserved Nikita’s plea. However, the Delhi police have said that they will hold the arrest of Nikita until the procurement of orders.
Nikita and Muluk had earlier moved Bombay High Court seeking transit anticipatory bails after the Delhi Police filed issued non-bailable warrants and named them accused in the ‘toolkit’ case. Nikita, who is a lawyer with the Bombay High Court, filed a plea through her lawyer Sanjukta Dey with the principal High Court seat in Mumbai. Muluk, a resident of Beed district in Maharashtra, filed his application in the Aurangabad bench of the HC.
Nikita and Muluk are claiming they are targets of political vendetta. “The applicant [Nikita] fears that she may be arrested due to political vendetta and media trial,” her plea application stated. “Some entity named Legal Rights Observatory appears to have filed a false and baseless complaint with the Delhi police and seeks to pin the blame for violence on January 26, 2021 (during tractor rally in Delhi) upon the applicant as well,” her plea application said. Muluk had said in his application, that he and his colleagues are innocent and are not dissenters but are supporters of the farmers’ protest.
According to reports, Nikita admitted that there was a Zoom call meeting, which was attended, by Poetic Justice Foundation member MO Dhaliwal and other activists, including Disha Ravi. However, Nikita has denied sharing information with activist Greta Thunberg. She added that the ‘toolkit’ document was an “informational pack” and wasn’t intended to incite violence.
The arrest of 21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi had resulted in widespread condemnation from politicians to activists and even a few law practitioners. Several law experts questioned Delhi Police for charging the activist with sedition charges. Disha is currently in the custody of the Delhi Police and is charged with sedition, promoting enmity and criminal conspiracy over her alleged role in the farmers’ protest ‘toolkit’.
While Delhi Police charged Disha with sedition, a former Supreme Court judge said there is nothing “seditious” with the toolkit document. During a recent panel discussion on a leading English news channel, Justice Deepak Gupta said that after going through the contents of the ‘toolkit document, he found nothing that incites violence or is seditious.
“I see that there is nothing in the toolkit on anything about violence or anything concerning inciting people. I don’t see what is seditious about this document. One may or may not agree with the protestors, that is a different matter. But to say that this is sedition is not understanding the law,” he said in the panel discussion.
During the ongoing farmers’ protest in India, teen activist Greta Thunberg shared a toolkit. According to reports, the original toolkit “exposed International propaganda to malign India”.
The ‘updated toolkit’ had several omissions from the original. The new version urged the overseas public to sign online petitions and take action to divest from fossil fuel industries. In the updated toolkit, the Adani and Ambani company name has been replaced with fossil fuel industries. Besides, the ‘updated toolkit’ omits all dates and instructions of activities to be done on January 26 tractor rally and days before the rally. The new toolkit also does not mention the Twitter storm, meaning that it was cancelled.
Justice Gupta also said that in many cases, the judiciary has “forgotten that bail, not jail is the rule”. “They don’t even read the documents, they just see what the police ask them…. At least they should apply their mind,” he had said. The Justice added that sedition could take place only if there was public disorder (rioting, fighting in public places) or any incitement of violence. He pointed out that there was no such thing in this case. Gupta had the time and again said that the sedition law is being misused rampantly to curb dissent and is one of the most abused laws in the country.
Gupta’s fellow panellist also echoed his sentiments. Lawyer Sidharth Luthra pointed out that sedition was being used without any delay. He also claimed that Disha was brought to New Delhi without being produced before the Karnataka magistrate. He said that the procedure of Disha’s arrest must be examined. Another panellist, Supreme Court lawyer Vikas Singh noted that the country has become intolerant to dissent.
Senior lawyer Rebecca M John also criticised the procedure of Disha’s arrest, stating that the Delhi Police compromised her rights. “I am critical of Disha’s arrest for the following reasons. Delhi Police could have waited for a Monday arrest and produced her on Tuesday. The police producing an accused on Sunday compromises her legal rights as lawyers find it difficult to be present during productions,” she said, adding that most lawyers are unaware that their clients are being produced in court.
Meanwhile, the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) also condemned Disha’s arrest. In a statement, CJAR said that the Delhi Police has made a complete mockery of the law and established procedure in arresting Disha and depriving her of her rights. The organisation has urged the Delhi Court to take Suo moto cognizance and initiate action against the Magistrate for remanding her in police custody. CJAR has also stated that Disha should be released from custody immediately and the action should be taken against the officers.