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Monday, March 08, 2021

Disha Ravi back in police custody, will now face co-accused

Public prosecutor claimed that during questioning, Disha Ravi, 22, had “shifted all the burden onto the co-accused”. Police also said Jacob and Muluk had joined the investigation only on Monday and they had not had “much time” to question them.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
February 23, 2021 2:29:38 am
Toolkit cases, Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob, Shantanu Muluk, Delhi police, Delhi news, Indian express newsPolice said they needed to confront Disha Ravi (left) with co-accused Nikita Jacob (right). (Photo: Praveen Khanna)

A DELHI court sent activist Disha Ravi to one-day police custody on Monday, observing that while the case against her involves “allegations to spread hatred, disaffection” to “undermine India’s sovereignty”, “a balance must be struck with the individual’s right”. Delhi Police had sought Ravi’s custody saying they needed to confront her with co-accused Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk.

The public prosecutor claimed that during questioning, Ravi, 22, had “shifted all the burden onto the co-accused”. Police also said Jacob and Muluk had joined the investigation only on Monday and they had not had “much time” to question them.

Bengaluru-based Ravi is under arrest in connection with a toolkit on the farmers’ protest, which had been tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. She was produced before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma by police at the expiry of her three-day judicial custody, which had followed an earlier five-day police custody.

Her bail application order is to be pronounced on Tuesday at Patiala House court. Jacob and Muluk had earlier secured transit bail from the Bombay High Court, providing them protection from arrest.

Allowing police one-day custody of Ravi, CMM Sharma said confrontation with the co-accused was necessary as “the role played by each of them in deletion of the original toolkit would come to light, which is very necessary for a fair investigation”, adding, “As the case involves allegations of a vituperous campaign to spread hatred and disaffection to disrupt peace and tranquillity to undermine India’s sovereignty, integrity and security, the investigating authority must be provided a fair time and chance within the ambit of law to reach out to truth through custodial interrogation, confrontation.”

However, the magistrate added, “… at the same time, a balance has to be struck with (an) individual’s right and, considering the same, police custody remand of the accused is deemed necessary for a shorter duration than required by police… as only confrontation of accused with other co-accused is sought”.

ACP Aditya Gautam told the court at Monday’s hearing, “This is not a petty case. It has transnational ramification as there are people involved who have declared secessionist tendencies.” The prosecutor argued that Ravi’s bail hearing being scheduled for Tuesday was no ground to deny police custody: “It (the confrontation) is beneficial for the accused since she (has) shifted the burden to the co-accused.”

Advocate Sidharth Aggarwal, who appeared on behalf of Ravi, said “the public prosecutor is arguing as if this is the first police remand (of Ravi). Like he has found the facts today. In law, there is a distinction between grant of police custody for the first time and extension of police custody… They do not tell that in the meantime I moved a bail application.”

Arguing that the court must determine what was new, Aggarwal said, “… not only what is new but can it be done without police custody”.

Aggarwal reiterated that “the fair investigation agency and fair prosecutor need to tell the court that my bail was listed”, and pointed out that paragraph numbers 1 to 12 were the same in the new remand application and the previous one. “Should the court close its eyes and ears and mechanically give police custody? If that is the law, then I have no issue,” he said.

Aggarwal contested that Ravi was not present at a Zoom call cited by police involving 60-70 people, among them two with “secessionist tendencies”. “Why do we need police custody remand for this purpose is the million dollar question. Today there are orders of conducting interrogation through video-conference. The additional thing is Shantanu and Nikita have joined the investigation and they need to be confronted (with Ravi). Have they been called before February 22? It is peculiar… as if an investigation begins after the arrest of people. Have they been served notice to even test whether I will run away?”

On police allegations that Ravi had deleted the toolkit, Aggarwal said she had already answered police questions and said, “I have the right to remain silent. What will you do? Will you hit me? How will you ask a question for which I have already given some answer? How will you find out? Five days, what were you doing?”

Aggarwal also asked why the police had not taken Ravi to Bengaluru in the time she was in police custody.

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