By Arun Srivastava
The little girl Disha Ravi who was charged by the Delhi police of conspiring against the sovereignty of the country and placed in custody for nine days by the Delhi police has exposed the true colour of our law and order machinery.. While slapping sedition charges the police had projected Disha as the biggest anti-national.
But the Delhi court exposed a number of holes in the conspiracy theory of the police and granted her bail. In its dirty design to showcase her arrest as the catch of the decade, the Delhi police even did not deter from violating the fundamentals of the legal provisions.
According to the prevailing legal practices, the Delhi police should have produced Disha who was arrested from her residence in Bengaluru before a local court and sough the permission for transit. Instead the Delhi police whisked her to Delhi. Usually this tactics is adopted by the police in the case of high risk criminals. Obviously through its action, the Delhi police wanted to project her as the high risk criminal.
That the Delhi police treated her like a hardened criminal was manifest from its denial to provide her the basic needs, like food and winter clothing on way to brining her to Delhi after the arrest. Probably Delhi police chief enjoying the patronage of the Union Home minister Amit Shah nursed the view that none has guts to question his extra-constitutional and illegal action. He can twist the legal provision to suit his whims. The Delhi police treated her like a hardened criminal, an anti-national conspirator, was evident from its chief’s observation that age is not a factor to judge the nature of the crime.
The police has the penchant for implicating a civil rights activist or social activists, or an academic in sedition cases for raising his voice against the wrong doings or misgovernance of Modi government. Some 7,136 people have been charged under the sedition law since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014.
Some of the important sedition cases are; chargesheeting Kanhaiya Kumar in JNU sedition case without sanction. Eventually a Delhi court rapped the Delhi Police for filing a chargesheet against former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar and others in a sedition case without approval of the legal department.
To quell unrelenting farmer protests/ the Delhi police has been using the colonial-era sedition law that has been used to lock up dissidents often without bail while they await trial. Arrest of Disha has been the latest example
A relic of the British colonial government once used against Mahatma Gandhi, India’s 19th-century sedition statute gives police broad powers to make arrests ahead of filing formal charges if an act or speech by an individual is “regarded to be disloyal to or threatening to the state.” The maximum penalty can be a life term in prison.
What is quite interesting is baring ten cases the police could not substantiate its charges against arrested persons. Only 10 people have been convicted under the law in the five years to 2019, according to data presented to parliament. For the government, the real use of the law is the ability to deny bail and keep people locked up for years while their cases trudge through the court system. The police has even charged six journalists under the law.
It is really sad that activists are being villainized and journalists harassed. Former minister and opposition lawmaker Shashi Tharoor also features in the list. The jailing of civil liberties activists in the last three-four years have shown us the decline in freedom of press and rule of law. A case was filed against Siddharth Vardarajan, editor of the digital website the Wire, for running a video story where Navreet Singh’s family alleged that he had been shot.
Much of this has gone unchallenged. The civil service and the police act more as political extensions of the government rather than constitutional functionaries. In the wake of protests by Muslims against the citizenship laws, they were targeted by large rightwing mobs. ce. In the ensuing violence in Delhi, more than 50 people were killed, at least 43 were Muslims. Since then a number of activists and student leaders have been rounded up and facing charges of sedition. Much of India’s press has already been compromised, exhibiting complicity and subservience to the government.
Unfortunately for Delhi police the court while granting bail observed; ‘Not even an iota of evidence brought to notice’. Disha Ravi bail order demolishes almost every charge levelled against her. The court held; “The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of governments”.
The police had tried to project the toolkit as the most mysterious anti-national object. It was more dangerous than an atom bomb. She was arrested from her home on the charge of editing and sharing an online “toolkit” on the farmers’ protest and booked for sedition. Nevertheless the court said; “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-year-old young lady, with absolutely blemish-free criminal antecedents and having firm roots in the society, and send her to jail”.
The judgement is quite significant for the reason that it demolishes the police efforts to slap false and fabricated cases against the dissenters, the people who dare to put their views in public domain and question the rational of government action. The judge citing the 1942 verdict said “The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of governments.” The verdict was among several that had implied that sedition cannot come into play without incitement to violence.
Unfortunately the police and a section of pro-government media have been making a mountain out of the contention that Disha had deleted a group chat. The police had alleged that Disha was associated with a pro- Khalistani secessionist group, the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF), and people associated with it are directly linked with creation of the toolkit document. Disha’s associates Nikita and Shantanu attended a Zoom meeting with 6070 people from across the world, including Mo Dhaliwal and Anita Lal. But it proved to be a mere wild accusation. The police could not provide any proof to justify its allegation.
The attempt of the Delhi police to connect Disha with the violence that took place near Red Fort on January 26 proved to be a futile effort. The police could not provide any evidence connecting Disha with the actual perpetrators of the violence. Justice observed there was absolutely no link established on record between Disha and the banned organisation.
The perusal of the said toolkit reveals that any call for any kind of violence was conspicuously absent. Obviously this raises the question from where did the police get strength to implicate innocent persons and frame such lethal cases. In this context the observation of the court is worth mentioning; “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 Disha and her coconspirators.”
The police had alleged that the toolkit has embedded hyperlinks with an intent to malign India abroad. However the court did not find anything objectionable. The judge said;”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.”
The court through its observation and granting bail to Disha Ravi in fact raised the bar for the State to initiate prosecution for being part of a “larger conspiracy.” This is significant given this charge is now recurrently levied in cases related to riots and protests. The court said ; “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,”
Questions are being raised as to why is Delhi Police probing a farmers’ protest ‘toolkit’ tweeted by Greta Thunberg? What is a toolkit? Why have they gained prominence? What did the toolkit tweeted by environment activist Greta Thunberg say? What does the police say? Delhi police need to come out with a proper and true reply. The officials of Delhi police ought to remember that they are the part of this society and have no right to ruin the budding career and future of the students and youths at the behest of the political masters.