New Delhi: In a blow to Delhi police, a court here Tuesday granted bail to climate activist Disha Ravi, arrested in connection with allegedly being involved in sharing a "toolkit" on social media related to the farmers' protest, terming evidence produced by police as "scanty and sketchy".
Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana, who granted relief to Ravi on a personal bond of Rs one lakh and two sureties of like amount, noted that the accused had absolutely no criminal antecedents.
'Scanty and Sketchy evidence'
"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," Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana noted.
The judge said that perusal of the said 'Toolkit' reveals that any call for any kind of violence is conspicuously absent.
'No link between Disha and SFJ'
The court said there is nothing on record to establish any direct link between Ravi and pro-Khalistan activists of 'Poetic Justice Foundation' (PJF) and also there is not even an iota of evidence brought connecting the perpetrators of the violence on Janury 26 with the PJF or her.
While observing that there is nothing on record to suggest that the applicant accused subscribed to any secessionist idea, the court said "further, the prosecution has, except for pointing out that applicant/accused forwarded the toolkit to climate activist Greta Thunberg, failed to point out as to how the applicant/accused gave global audience to the 'secessionist elements'."
"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 accused and her coconspirators," the judge said.
'Being editor of innocuous toolkit not offence'
The court said the difference of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, or for that matter, even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state policies.
"An aware and assertive citizenry, in contradistinction with an indifferent or docile citizenry, is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy," the court said.
"In my considered opinion, creation of a WhatsApp group or being editor of an innocuous Toolkit is not an offence," said Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana.
'Citizens can't be jailed for disagreeing with state policies'
"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. The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments," the court said.
"The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution. 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," the court said.
The court directed that Ravi shall continue to cooperate with the ongoing investigations and shall join the investigation as and when summoned by the Investigating officer and not leave the country without the permission of the court.
The court noted that more than hundreds of persons involved in the violence have been arrested and interrogated by the Delhi Police but no evidence connecting the accused with the actual perpetrators of the violence has been brought forth on record by the prosecution till date.
(With inputs from agencies)