'Toolkit' case: Delhi HC issues notices to news channels on Disha Ravi's plea; haven't leaked to media, says police

Ravi's petition has alleged that investigative matters have been leaked to the media and that the press briefings by the police are 'prejudicial' and 'grossly violative of her right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence'

FP Staff February 18, 2021 16:26:29 IST
'Toolkit' case: Delhi HC issues notices to news channels on Disha Ravi's plea; haven't leaked to media, says police

File Image of Disha Ravi. News18

Hours after climate activist Disha Ravi moved the Delhi High Court seeking that the police be restrained from leaking to the media any material with regard to the FIR against her in the 'toolkit' case, the court on Thursday issued notices to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) and a few media houses.

Ravi's petition also sought to restrain the media from publishing the content or extract of any alleged private chats, including those on WhatsApp, between her and third parties.

Since there were no lawyers representing the NBSA and some of the media houses named in Ravi's petition, the court, issuing notices to them, said it will hear the matter tomorrow, reported news agency PTI.

Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta appearing for the Delhi Police during the hearing, submitted that there had been no leakage from the police and said " we can submit an affidavit in this regard", reported LiveLaw.

Appearing for Ravi, senior advocate Amit Sibal insisted that it was the Delhi Police that had leaked confidential information on the case to the media.

"They can say whatever, but the facts speak otherwise. She was arrested on 13th, and material was seized by police… Media itself says that they have got records from police, how are they accessing these records?", LiveLaw quoted Sibal as saying.

According to Bar&Bench, Sibal demanded that statement be made that nothing will be shared.

On Mehta's allegation of it being a call for media attention, Sibal countered: "There is not for media attention. This is media frenzy."

"This is a most unfortunate case where the media, in order to gain a few thousand TRPs, is trampling over the rights of the citizens. A 22-year-old has been arrested and it's being called a call for media attention?" the LiveLaw report quoted Sibal say saying.

The court asked the police to file an affidavit containing its submission that it has not leaked any material relating to the investigation to the media.

According to the LiveLaw report, notices have been issued to NBSA, TimesNow and News18. India Today was represented in the court.

According to PTI, Ravi in her petition had said she is "severely aggrieved and prejudiced by the media trial surrounding her arrest and the ongoing investigation, where she is being viscerally attacked by the respondent 1 (police) and several media houses". She claimed that her arrest from Bengaluru on 13 February by a Cyber Cell team of Delhi Police was "wholly unlawfully and without basis".

She contended that in the present circumstances, it was "highly likely" that the general public will perceive the news items "as being conclusive as to the guilt of the petitioner (Ravi)".

"In these circumstances, and to restrain the respondents from further violating her privacy, her reputation, and her right to a fair trial, the petitioner is moving the present petition," the plea has said.

Her petition has alleged that investigative matters have been leaked to the media and the press briefings by the police are "prejudicial" and "grossly violative of her right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence". "The illegal actions and omissions on part of the respondents has irrevocably violated the petitioner's fundamental right to privacy, her right to reputation, her dignity, and the consequent effect of the administration of justice and right to fair trial," the petition has said.

It has claimed that the police first "leaked investigative material" — like alleged WhatsApp chats — the substance and details of which were only in the possession of the investigating agency. Thereafter, the "private alleged WhatsApp chats" were publicised and disseminated by various media houses which was a violation of the provisions of the Cable Televisions Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (CTN Act), the Programme Code and the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines, the petition has contended.

It has also claimed that the "media houses have published one-sided defamatory, suggestive innuendos, and half-truths about the petitioner". Ravi's plea has further contended that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the NBSA "have failed to exercise their statutory and self-regulatory powers in ensuring compliance with the Programme Code under the CTN Act and the Code of Ethics of National Broadcasting Standards Association".

Delhi Police, probing the "toolkit Google doc" backing the farmers' agitation shared by climate activist Greta Thunberg, had arrested Ravi from Bengaluru on 13 February. Mumbai lawyer Jacob and Pune engineer Shantanu Muluk have been granted pre-arrest bail by court.

A Delhi court had on February 14 sent Ravi to five day police custody after the agency said her custodial interrogation was required to probe an alleged larger conspiracy against the government of India and to ascertain her alleged role relating to the Khalistan movement.

A toolkit is a document created to explain any issue and provides information on what one needs to do to address the issue. This might include information about petitions, details about protests, and mass movements.

Delhi Police had earlier asked Google and some social media giants to provide information about email ID, URLs and certain social media accounts related to the creators of the toolkit shared by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg and others on Twitter in connection with the farmers' protest.

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 against unnamed persons was registered on charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition and various other sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The toolkit was aimed at spreading disaffection and ill-will against the government of India and creating disharmony among various social, religious and cultural groups, the police had claimed.

With inputs from PTI

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