Greta Thunberg 'toolkit' case: Bombay HC reserves judgment in Nikita Jacob's bail plea; no arrest till court pronounces verdict
Desai also cited a judgment by Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court, in which the court chose to grant a 10-day transit bail to Shantanu Muluk, who is a co-accused in the same case
The Bombay High Court has reserved its judgment till tomorrow (Wednesday) on bail plea of lawyer-activist Nikita Jacob, who is one of the three key accused in the contentious 'toolkit case' regarding the farmers' protest on 26 January. Meanwhile, the prosecution has agreed to hold off arrest till the pronouncement of the verdict.
Jacob had moved court seeking a transit bail for four weeks and a stay on coercive action by the police after non-bailable warrants were issued against her and a Beed-based engineer Shantanu Muluk. The Delhi Police had booked the duo, along with climate activist Disha Ravi, for creating a protest toolkit backing the farmers' agitation, allegedly with the aim of "tarnishing the image of India and collaborated with pro-Khalistani elements"
According to Bar and Bench, Jacob had claimed that she anticipates arrest despite making herself available to the authorities, in connection with a "frivolous case" based on "political vendetta" and "fake news".
She said that she had no political, religious or financial motive for researching, editing or circulating communication packs/toolkits for raising awareness, let alone to incite violence, riots or cause other physical harms. Mihir Desai, appearing for Jacob, argued that the toolkit at the centre of the controversy did not contain any reference to violent acts or anything pertaining to taking over the Red fort. He said that even if one person out of the 50-odd editors who had access to the toolkit document had Khalistani links, it does not become grounds to charge a young lawyer and activist with sedition.
Desai also cited a judgment by Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court, in which the court chose to grant a 10-day transit bail to Muluk, who is a co-accused in the same case.
Advocate Hiten Venegaokar, appearing for the Delhi Police, however, objected to the bail plea on the grounds that Bombay High Court does not have territorial jurisprudence in the matter as the case was registered in Delhi.
Venegaokar: Under Sec 438 of CrPc Your Lordships do not have the power for cases outside the jurisdiction of the Court for granting anticipatory bail.
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) February 16, 2021
Ravi, Jacob and Muluk created the toolkit and sent it to others, officials alleged as a fierce political debate broke out between the opposition and and the ruling BJP over the action against 21-year-old Ravi in the case related to the toolkit Google doc, which came to light when it was shared by global climate campaigner Greta Thunberg.
"Disha, Shantanu and Nikita created and edited the toolkit. Disha sent the toolkit to Greta Thunberg through Telegram. Disha deleted a Whatsapp group which she created to spread the toolkit. Due procedure was followed when Disha was arrested," Nath said.
"The toolkit was aimed at tarnishing the image of India," he added and described the toolkit as a dynamic document with hyperlinks to Google docs, a lot of which are 'pro-Khalistani".
Ravi was arrested from Bengaluru on Saturday and sent to police remand for five days by a Delhi court on Sunday with officials claiming she was an editor of the "toolkit Google doc" and "key conspirator" in its formulation and dissemination.
A day later, Delhi Police officials said they were conducting raids in several places, including Mumbai, Bengaluru and Beed, to nab Jacob and Muluk.
During a search of Jacob's house on 11 February, two laptops and an iPhone were found along with several "incriminating documents", police said.
Thunberg had shared the "toolkit" in early February to lend her support to the farmers' agitation against the Centre's three new agri laws. The document listed a series of actions, including creating a Twitter storm and protesting outside Indian embassies, to be taken to support the farmers' protest.
The toolkit has been cited by some critics as "proof" of a conspiracy to fuel protests in India.
Earlier this month, the Cyber Cell had lodged an FIR against "pro-Khalistan" creators of the "toolkit" for waging a "social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India". The case has been registered on charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition and other sections of the Indian Penal Code.
While many in the BJP defended Delhi Police, several opposition leaders accused the government of "murdering democracy" by using force against a 21-year-old and called for her release.
Delhi Police had earlier asked Google and other social media giants to provide information about e-mail id, URLs and social media accounts related to the creators of the "toolkit" shared by Thunberg and others on Twitter in connection with the farmers' protest.
This was following the clashes on 26 January during the farmers' tractor parade in the national capital. Over 500 police security personnel were injured while one protestors died during the Republic Day violence.
With inputs from PTI
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