A Delhi court on Monday sent 22-year-old Bengaluru-based climate activist Disha Ravi to one day police custody as it turned down Delhi police’s request for five days police custody. Disha has already spent eight days in custody — first five days in police custody and then was remanded to three days in judicial custody. She was produced in Delhi’s Patiala House Court after her three-day judicial custody ended. The Delhi police claimed that they had to question the young activist more and sought five more days of custody. A Sessions Court in Delhi is due to pronounce orders on her bail plea on Tuesday, February 23.
Appearing for the Delhi police, the Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) claimed that in her interrogation, Disha has shifted the burden to others accused — Nikita Jacob and Shantanu Muluk — in the case. Shantanu and Nikita on Monday appeared before the Delhi police in connection with the case. “I have to confront her with the other accused, Nikita and Shantanu. They came to Delhi today (Monday) morning,” the prosecutor told the court. “We have seven more days as Nikita's transit bail ends in three weeks and Shantanu's in ten days. Those two accused persons are given protection therefore we are here helpless,” the APP added.
“There are 60-70 more people who participated in the Zoom meeting. We are investigating the case and we need cyber experts to probe it as well. We can't close all evidence until we confront her,” the APP said.
Appearing for Disha, advocate Siddharth Agrawal asked why Disha had to be in custody when the other two have relief and have even appeared before police for investigation. Agarwal told the court that police custody is justified only when investigation is otherwise not possible.
“I (Disha) was in Bengaluru. I was not here. Those two people (Nikita and Shantanu) are not in custody. The investigation is not throttled,” the lawyer told the court. “If the interrogation of an accused is possible even when he is in judicial custody, then the issue of seeking police remand should not be encouraged,” he added.
Disha’s counsel submitted to the court that the police have already had eight days to question her, and 12 paragraphs in the Delhi police’s application to the court seeking further custody are identical to the application filed by the police on February 14.
“They are arguing as if this is the first police remand being asked. They are arguing as if the facts are being known by them for the first time today,” advocate Siddharth Agarwal told the court. “It is just a way to get Disha back to police custody,” he added.
Disha’s counsel pointed out that she was not a part of the Zoom meeting, and said, “The issue is that they want to talk about everything else and everyone else to say that she did something wrong.”
Agarwal also argued that the police should not be granted remand by the trial court without any justification.
“Remand can be asked for only cases where there is necessity. Magistrate should refrain from giving remand where there are chances of police extracting confessions,” Agrawal said. “The other two accused are not in remand and the investigation has not been throttled. Today investigation can be done through virtual conference links also,” Agrawal said.
Earlier, on February 19, the same court had sent Disha to three-further days of judicial custody. Disha’s judicial custody ended on Monday and her bail order is reserved for Tuesday.
Disha was arrested on February 13 by the Delhi Police in connection with the probe into the ‘toolkit’ or the Google document on farmers’ protests under controversial circumstances. Disha’s lawyers say she was flown to Delhi without a transit remand following detention by the Delhi police. It is to be noted that toolkits are nothing but Google Documents or Word documents often used to organise a social media campaign or to plan protests. A toolkit contains basic information on any issue, tweet suggestions and information on what hashtags to use, whom to tag on social media, etc. These documents are regularly used by various individuals and groups, including political parties, to organise social media campaigns and mobilise crowds.
It is to be noted that a separate Delhi court bench is hearing her bail plea and has reserved orders for Tuesday, February 23. During the hearing on Saturday, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana had questioned the lack of material evidence against Disha during the bail hearing. Appearing for the Delhi Additional Solicitor General (ASG) SV Raju opposed bail for Disha and said that it was not a simple ‘toolkit', that the ‘toolkit’ preceded the violence that took place in Delhi on January 26 and that it was linked to the Khalistani movement through the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF), a Canada based organisation. However, the ASG said that the PJF was not a banned organisation.