Disha Ravi Bail: Lessons for Govt on Sedition, Freedom, Dissent

Shohini Bose
·3-min read

Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui & Vivek Gupta

Twenty-two-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi was finally released on bail, after spending nine days in custody. While granting her bail, Additional Sessions Judge Justice Dharmender Rana made some pertinent observations on the merits of Ravi’s bail plea as well as on the sedition law, under which she was charged.

Here are ten things that Justice Rana said that are a lesson on our laws, liberties, freedoms, dissent, conspiracies and sedition.

1. ‘Citizens Cannot Be Put Behind Bars for Disagreeing With State Policies’

Justice Dharmender Rana observed that every citizen has the right to dissent and disagree and no citizen can be jailed or charged with sedition for disagreeing with government policies. He said:

2. ‘Mere Engagement With Persons of Dubious Credentials Not Indictable’

A primary argument put forth against Ravi was that she collaborated with a group named 'Poetic Justice Foundation' and used social media to propagate a "secessionist Khalistan narrative."

The Court ruled that there was no direct evidence to link Ravi and Poetic Justice Foundation. It said:

3. ‘Merely Sharing Platform With People Who Oppose a Law Is Not Secessionist Tendency’

Ravi's bail order also mentioned that in the absence of evidence, the mere sharing of a platform with a group of persons opposing the farm laws cannot lead to a conclusion that she supported the group's alleged secessionist tendencies. The order said:

4. ‘Sedition Cannot Be Invoked to Minister to Wounded Vanity of the Governments'

Justice Rana clarified that anything that puts the government on the defensive can’t be silenced with a charge of sedition. On this point, the court cited a phrase from an old judgment. He said:

5. ‘Right to Dissent Is Enshrined in Our Constitution’

The Court said that the makers of the Constitution of India gave due respect to the divergence of opinion by recognising freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right. It observed:

6. ‘No Geographical Barriers on Communication’

The Court also observed that the Right to Freedom of Speech also covers within its ambit, the right to seek a global audience. It said:

7. ‘Difference of Opinion, Disagreement, Dissent Are Tools to Infuse Objectivity in State Policies’

Quoting a couplet from the Rig Veda that embodies our cultural ethos expressing our respect for divergent opinions – 'Let noble thoughts come to me from all directions', Justice Rana said:

8. ‘Aware and Assertive Citizenry Is a Sign of a Healthy and Vibrant Democracy’

Justice Rana also emphasised on the need of an aware and assertive citizenry for a healthy and vibrant democracy. He said:

9. ‘Being Editor of a Toolkit Is Not an Offence’

Ravi was accused of editing a ‘toolkit’ on the ongoing farmers' protest that was posted by Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg. It was also submitted that she created a WhatsApp group and later deleted the chats on the group in an attempt to destroy evidence linking her to the toolkit and Poetic Justice Foundation.

In response, Justice Rana said:

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