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Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Disha says difference of opinion not sedition, judge questions police

Questioning the police stand, Disha Ravi’s lawyer Siddharth Agarwal asked if one prefers “Kung Fu to Yoga” does it mean “I am a Chinese spy”.

Written by Anand Mohan J | New Delhi |
Updated: February 21, 2021 4:39:02 am
Disha Ravi, Disha Ravi case, Greta Thunberg, Disha Ravi-toolkit case, Greta Thunberg toolkit case, Delhi Police, farmers protest, Indian Express newsDisha Ravi outside a court in New Delhi on Friday. (File)

A Delhi court Saturday reserved its order for February 23 on the bail application of activist Disha Ravi, arrested in connection with a toolkit on the farmer protests that was tweeted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana questioned the Delhi Police on whether it had any evidence against Ravi or “are we required to draw inferences and conjectures”.

With Additional Solicitor General SV Raju and Additional Public Prosecutor Irfan Ahmad, who appeared for Delhi Police, opposing the bail application, Ravi’s lawyer Siddharth Agarwal told the court that “having a difference of opinion does not amount to sedition”, that his client sought Thunberg’s support for issues being raised by farmers, and “she did not tweet for Khalistan”.

Questioning the police stand, Agarwal asked if one prefers “Kung Fu to Yoga” does it mean “I am a Chinese spy”.

ASJ Rana raised questions on many facets of the case — whether Ravi could be imputed with the actions of Khalistani sympathisers, whether there was evidence connecting Ravi to those involved in the violence on Republic Day, and on the toolkit’s connection to the violence.

Detailing the prosecution’s case, Raju told the court that Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) founders Mo Dhaliwal and Anita Lal who are “Khalistani sympathisers, wanted to take advantage of the farmer agitation to carry out its activities. They needed an Indian face. If they did it directly, they would get exposed. They got in touch with the petitioner (Ravi) and a scheme was devised”.

He said the toolkit “seemed innocuous” but it had hyperlinks taking users to websites which “defamed the Indian Army” and also to “current genocide alert” which had contents on “genocide in Kashmir” and the citizenship issue in Assam.

“It got leaked on social media and it was available to everyone. They panicked and deletions were made. If you were not wrong, you would not make deletions. Hence, this is destruction of evidence. This is only a facade. They have taken advantage of the farmer agitation to run their agenda. She (Ravi) is behind it… she had rights to edit the toolkit, she covered her tracks by removing evidence. This is the working of a guilty mind,” he said.

ASJ Rana began by asking Raju whether any FIR had been filed against the founders of PJF. Told that it could be added at a later stage, the judge said, “How do we impute these bad credentials?”. To this, Raju said, “By their tweets.”

ASJ Rana said, “Have you collected some material to this effect?”. The police produced documents to show statements of the founders sympathising with the Khalistani movement.

“Suppose I am emotionally swayed… and I meet certain persons with doubtful credentials. How would you impute this against me?” the judge asked.

Raju said, “These are persons known internationally”. At this, the judge said, “Even I did not know them.” Raju said, “But if anybody contacts you, then you would make a search… it is a matter of investigation… These are not illiterate persons. They made the toolkit… Today to say that I did not know, it is too far-fetched.”

The judge asked Raju to give him a “definitive answer” and said, “If I approach a dacoit for temple donation, how do you say that I am privy to dacoity? What is the material against her?”.

Raju said, “It is not that simple… the court must look at the conduct… she was constantly in touch.”

The judge then asked police how the toolkit was connected to the Republic Day violence. Raju said, “In a conspiracy, people may have different roles… someone inspired by the toolkit would be instigated to commit violence. Because of the toolkit, some elements put a flag… the first is violence. Toolkit precedes the violence… Go inside Delhi, do this, do that.”

ASJ Rana said, “What is this do this and that? What is the link?”. As Raju tried to read a judgment, the judge said, “Please, unless I satisfy my conscience, I don’t move ahead.”

Raju told the court that the toolkit must be read along with the hashtags and links. ASJ Rana said, “Is there any evidence? Or are we required to draw any inferences and conjectures?”.

Raju said, “Conspiracy is a meeting of minds. The requirement of law is that conspiracy is complete. Others have different roles.”

ASJ Rana said, “Should I assume that for now there is no direct link?”. Raju said, “We are still investigating.”

The court was also told that the people accused in the violence had been arrested.

APP Ahmad said the “toolkit was used to instigate people”. He said co-accused Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk attended a Zoom meeting on January 11 with “60-70 people across the globe” including Dhaliwal and Lal. Following this, the accused persons including Ravi, he said, discussed the toolkit on WhatsApp “subject to certain modification by applicant”.

Ahmad told the court that this toolkit was shared by Shantanu with PJF. Ravi consented to this by sending a message that she had read it, and Shantanu came to Delhi days before the violence to carry out the plan, he said.

Police also told the court that Sikhs for Justice was a banned organisation which was “interlinked with them”.

Ravi’s lawyer Agarwal told the court: “I meet someone in some context. It is not written on their face that he is a secessionist. If anyone talks to a secessionist, it does not mean that I am also a secessionist.”

He said there was no evidence against Ravi and “having a difference of opinion does not amount to sedition”. He said he was “not here to obstruct investigation. I am here to strike a balance between their right to investigate and my right to not be in custody”.

“For years we have talked about this. If telling people is an issue of sedition, then we should shut down the Internet everywhere. Let us just have Doordarshan. We can all watch the same thing… They are saying Yoga was targeted. If I prefer Kung Fu to Yoga, I am a Chinese spy? They are reducing the bar… their issue is that I spoke to Greta, asked her to support us. The support was for farm issues. She did not tweet for Khalistan. Her tweet is only about the farmer protest,” Agarwal said.

Thunberg had tweeted the toolkit on February 3, and police, in the FIR registered the next day, said that the sequence of events in the farmer protests, including the violent incidents at Red Fort on Republic Day, was a “copycat” of the action plan in the document.

On Thursday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, responding to a query from ABP News on Ravi’s arrest, defended the Delhi Police action, saying while he did not wish to speak on the merits of the case or the investigation since “IPS officers and police will do their job in a professional manner”, but “I want to ask one thing that if someone commits a crime, should one ask the person’s age, profession, association… what is this new method?”.

“Will an FIR be decided on gender, profession and age? Won’t it be decided on the basis of whether a crime has been committed or not? A new fashion has begun. Isn’t there a court in the country? If there’s a wrong FIR, go for its quashing. There are so many in the country who are 21 years old. Why has one particular person been chosen? They must have some evidence… Delhi Police is doing a professional job,” he said.

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