Saturday, April 17, 2021
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Kudos to Courts for ‘exposing wounded vanity of the Government’.

Bail to Disha & Varavara: Enhancing hopes of justice & credibility.

#Asiavilletoons #Cartoon on #DishaRavibail cartoon is circulated in twitter by Asiaville, which is a multilingual original content network focused on Video, Audio and Text based digital native storytelling formats.

One bail freed the young activist Disha Ravi and the other liberated octogenarian poet Varavara Rao. Both are incarcerated for opposing the government’s policies, without proper evidence which could legally hold them behind bars. The serious threat to personal liberty can only be averted with the Judges like this and judgements like these. Kudos to the upholders of justice.

#ASKINDIAWHY GLOBAL FARMERS STRIKE FIRST WAVE WILL YOU BE PART OF THE LARGEST PROTEST IN HUMAN HISTORY? (A picture showing gathering of few people embedded in the page) TO STAND UP AGAINST INDIA’S FAILING DEMOCRACY (AT THE BEHEST OF THE FASCISTIC RULING PARTY, RSS-BJP) TO STAND UP AGAINST UNREGULATED COPORATISATION OF THE FARMING SECTOR, (Photocopy of the said page is annexed along with the instant order)

This is the so-called toolkit that was used as basis for arresting Disha Ravi on the charge of sedition.

Also Read: Curbs on webinars, scientific freedom at stake

The Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) of Delhi Court Dharmender Rana deserves all appreciation for bringing out basic truths about the lack of evidence or basis for the charge of Sedition against Disha Ravi and the wounded vanity of the government in booking the young environment activist.

  The order quoted from the judgment in Niharendu Dutt Mazumdar v. Emperor AIR 1942 FC22 to say that the “offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments”.  

She was arrested on February 13 and charged with sedition, criminal conspiracy, and inciting 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. Court recognized that Disha Ravi is a part of the Indian wing of Fridays for Future, a global climate change movement founded by Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Those who exploit and abuse the Sanskrit sayings and rely on vedic culture of great India to suppress the voices and arrest the critics, the Judge gave a fitting quotation.

“This 5000-year-old civilization of ours has never been averse to ideas from varied quarters. The following couplet in Rig Veda embodies our cultural ethos expressing our respect for divergent opinions”. He quoted from Rig Veda. This is the quote: आ नो भद्रा: क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वत: हमारे लि‍ए (न:) सभी ओर से (वि‍श्‍वत:) कल्‍याणकारी (भद्रा:) वि‍चार (क्रतव:) आयें (आयन्‍तु). Let noble thoughts come to us from every side. – Rig Veda, I-89-i  

The ASJ rejected the police’s argument and said it could not be presumed on “surmises or conjectures” that Ravi supported secessionist tendencies or violence, simply because she shared a platform with people who gathered to oppose the farm laws.

Also Read: Centre squarely responsible for losses of VSP

The ASJ concluded that Ravi had no connection with pro-Khalistani organisations, Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF), and Sikhs for Justice, and that there was not an “iota” of evidence linking her to the violence that rocked Delhi on Republic Day. He pointed out the “scanty and sketchy evidence”. 

Scanty and sketchy evidence on record; not sufficient to keep a 22 year old under custody. “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”.

While granting bail to Disha Ravi on 23d February 2021, the ASJ Dharmender Rana said: “I find absolutely nothing objectionable in the said page. Upon   perusal   of   the material   available   on Genocide.org, it is revealed that it carries certain facts about the status of   human right violations in somewhere about 40 countries including India.   I concur with   the   Ld.   ASG,  without   commenting   upon   the   sanctity   of   the information, that the imputations are really objectionable in the said website.   However,   even   if   the   said   imputations   are   found   to   be objectionable in nature, I cannot but disagree with Ld. ASG that the said material   is   seditious   in   nature.   The   imputations   may   be   false, exaggerated or even with a mischievous intent but the same cannot be stigmatized   being   seditious   unless   they   have   tendency   to   foment violence”.

Also Read: The Violence and Hope for solution

Any kind of violence was conspicuously absent from the toolkit, and no evidence was on record to suggest Ravi subscribed to secessionist ideas. I have repeatedly said the toolkit is an innocuous document used by social media campaigns for strategy and planning.

Lessons from Judge

These are the lessons from the ASJ to our democratic Government:

  • The judge said citizens are the conscience-keepers of the government in any democratic nation.
  • Citizens cannot be put behind bars simply because they choose to disagree with the state policies.
  • The difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter, even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies.
  • It added an aware and assertive citizenry, in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy.
  • The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the government.
  • “The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of The Constitution of India. 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”.
  • It added 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 law and as such have access to the audience abroad.
‘Propitious Anticipations Cannot Restrict Personal Liberty “I am conscious of the fact that it is very difficult to collect evidence for the offence of conspiracy but I’m equally conscious of the fact that what is difficult to prove for the prosecution in the affirmative is virtually impossible for the defence to prove in the negative. 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”.

Also Read: Failure of the Apex court’s Committee

Editing toolkit not an offence

“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 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. Further, it is rightly pointed out by Ld Defence Counsel that the protest march was duly permitted by the Delhi police therefore there is nothing wrong in co-accused Shantanu reaching Delhi to attend the protest march. Still further, the attempt to conceal her identity seems to be nothing more than an anxious effort to stay away from unnecessary controversies”

Nothing to show Disha subscribed secession

“It would be worthwhile to observe that there is nothing on record to suggest that the applicant accused subscribed to any secessionist idea”

“Further, 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 audience to the ‘secessionist elements'”

Where is violence

“It is further highlighted that the applicant/accused along with her associates under the pretext of protesting against the farm laws have resolved to vandalize Indian Embassies and specifically attack symbols of India i.e. Yoga and Chai. Except for a bare assertion, no evidence has been brought to my notice to support the contention that any violence took place at any of the Indian Embassies pursuant to the sinister designs of the applicant/accused and her co-¬conspirators”

“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”.

Also Read: Farewell to Welfare of Farmers & Most Obedient to Market Forces

Mere engagement with people of dubious credentials not offence

“In my considered opinion, it is not mere engagement with persons of dubious credentials which is indictable rather it is the purpose of engagement which is relevant for the purpose of deciding culpablity. Any person with dubious credentials may interact with a number of persons during the course of his social intercourse. 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. In the absence of any evidence to the effect that the applicant/accused agreed or shared a common purpose to cause violence on 26.01.2021 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 26.01.2021, simply because she shared a platform with people, who have gathered to oppose the legislation. There is not even an iota of evidence brought to my notice connecting the perpetrators of the violence on 26.01.2021 with the said PJF or the applicant/accused”.

Two bails to Varavara Rao

While the bail to Disha was on merits of the case, Varavara Rao’s Bail was totally based on the health grounds. The Bombay high court on 22 February 2021 granted poet and rights activist Varavara Rao six months’ bail.“With all humility and human considerations, we are of the opinion that this is a fit case for allowing the relief,” a bench of Justices S.S. Shinde and Manish Pitale said. “We feel that with the condition of the undertrial, it would be inappropriate to send him back [to jail from hospital]. It would be appropriate to impose such conditions.”

After the six months are over, the bench aked Rao must report back to Tajola prison in Mumbai. For the period of his bail, it added, he must remain within the NIA court’s jurisdiction and “not indulge in any activities or similar activities which led to the registering of the FIR”. “Rao has to attend trial whenever necessary, but can apply for exemption from physical appearance.” 

Also Read: How can Courts decide mala fides issues between two wings of State?

Bail in Surajgarh Iron Ore Mine arson case

The Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on 23 February 2021 granted him interim bail on medical grounds in connection with a 2016 Surjagarh iron ore mine arson case. Varavara Rao, 82, and advocate Surendra Gadling were arrested by the Gadchiroli police in Maharashtra in February 2019 in connection with the case.

Justice Swapna Joshi of the High Court’s Nagpur bench granted bail to Rao on similar grounds on which the principal bench granted bail to him in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case.On December 25, 2016, Naxals allegedly set ablaze at least 80 vehicles engaged in transporting iron ore from Surjagarh mines in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli.

These bails enhanced the hopes of justice and credibility of justice system.

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is former Central Information Commissioner and Professor of Law at Bennett University

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