The Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Centre to file a fresh status report on the ongoing investigation against climate activist Disha Ravi in connection with the alleged toolkit case against her over the 2021 farmers’ protests.
According to the police, the “toolkit” on the farmers’ protest that Ravi, along with two others allegedly created, was developed with an intention to “tarnish India’s image”. The toolkit was distributed in the form of a Google Doc that went viral on Twitter.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh was dealing with Ravi’s plea, who sought the court’s direction to restrain police from providing any investigation material to the media.
Justice Singh said: “Let the Union of India file an affidavit as to the status of investigation and the current position.” While she listed the matter for the next hearing on September 4, she directed that the affidavit be filed at least two weeks before it.
Appearing for Ravi, senior advocate Akhil Sibal said that a question which needs to be considered here is whether the investigating agency has the power and entitlement to identify and collect private data from a person who is under investigation.
“During the course of investigation, when the chargesheet is yet to be filed, you’ve collected private data and media starts reporting,” Sibal contended. He added that no chargesheet has been filed in the case yet and that his client is out on bail.
“This cannot go on like this. It is an important matter, you cannot come without instructions,” Justice Singh expressed her displeasure over the police counsel appearing without proper instructions.
A court on February 23, 2021, granted bail to Ravi days after she was arrested from Bengaluru for allegedly editing a social media toolkit about the farmers’ protests against three farm laws.
The court had granted bail saying there was “scanty” and “sketchy” evidence to back charges of sedition against Ravi. It asserted that citizens could not be jailed simply because they disagreed with government policies.
Additional sessions judge Dharmender Rana had released the then 22-year-old activist on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and two sureties of the same amount. In her petition, Ravi claimed that she was viscerally attacked by Delhi Police and several media houses on the basis of leaked investigative matter and prejudicial press briefings.
“I had coerced myself into believing that the only way I would be able to live through this was by tricking myself into thinking that this wasn’t happening to me,” Ravi, a vegan and member of Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, had said in a statement in March 2021. “My actions were pronounced guilty – not in the court of law, but on flat screens,” she added.
At that time, the police had said that the document Ravi created stoked violence in early 2021 on Jan. 26, India’s Republic Day, when some protesting farmers broke free of a planned march and clashed with police. Angry at new agricultural laws they believed would benefit large private buyers at the expense of growers, tens of thousands of farmers had camped on the outskirts of New Delhi for over a year, from August 2020 to December 2021.
Swedish climate activist Thunberg, popstar Rihanna, and U.S. activist Meena Harris, the niece of Vice President Kamala Harris, had all tweeted in support of the farmers’ protests, drawing a rebuke from India’s foreign ministry.