The Bombay High Court on Tuesday reserved its order in granting transit anticipatory bail to Mumbai-based lawyer and activist Nikita Jacob against whom the Delhi Police has registered an FIR for allegedly trying to tarnish the country's image by sharing a "toolkit" on the months-long farmers' protest.
A Delhi court has issued a non-bailable warrant (NBW) against Jacob in a case related to the toolkit. Jacob is seeking transitory bail for four weeks and protection from any coercive action.
Meanwhile, another accused in the case, Pune-based engineer Shantanu Muluk was granted transitory bail for 10 days by the Aurangabad bench of the high court. An NBW was issued against him as well. Shantanu is a resident of Maharashtra's Beed district and did his engineering from Pune, police said, adding the former was not found at his house.
The Delhi Police has alleged Jacob and Muluk were involved in creating the "toolkit" along with climate activist Disha Ravi. The police have claimed Ravi, 22, who was arrested on Saturday from Bengaluru, sent the "toolkit" to Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg through the Telegram app, and also "coaxed her to act on it".
Senior lawyer Hiten Vinegaokar, representing the Delhi Police, submitted several previous judgements arguing that the court did not have the jurisdiction to grant a transit bail. The same was contested by Jacob's lawyer, Mihir Desai.
Earlier, when a team of Delhi Police officers visited Jacob's residence in Goregaon, Mumbai, she was not present at home and police had stated that she was absconding. It was then came to light that she had applied for transit anticipatory bail which was listed for Tuesday.
According to her lawyer, Jacob was not absconding and, in fact, had co-operated with the team when they visited her residence previously. Police had also taken her laptop and mobile phones. Her lawyer said they had every right to seek a four-week anticipatory bail since they did not have a copy of the FIR filed against her and she had already given her statement to the Delhi police.
Police said during a search of Nikita's house on February 11, two laptops and an iPhone were found along with several "incriminating documents", police said.
When Justice Pradeep Naik Judge, hearing the case, asked how is the transitory bail application not maintainable, Venegaokar said under Section 438 of of the CrPc, the current bench did not have the power for cases outside the jurisdiction of the court for granting anticipatory bail. He also cited two previous high court orders in this regard.
Police said 22-year-old Ravi also deleted a WhatsApp group she had created to spread the "toolkit" which was a dynamic document with hyperlinks to Google docs, a lot of which are 'pro-Khalistani".
Thunberg had shared the "toolkit" to lend her support to the farmers' agitation against the three farm reform laws. In the document, various urgent actions, including creating a Twitter storm and protesting outside Indian embassies, were listed which were needed to be taken to support the farmers' protest. The "toolkit" has been cited by some critics as a "proof" of her conspiracy to fuel protests in India.
DCW Notice to Delhi Police
In another development, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has asked the police to provide a copy of the FIR registered in the matter and reasons for allegedly not producing Ravi before a local court for transit remand. It has also asked the reasons for allegedly not providing a lawyer of her choice when she was produced before the court here, and a detailed action taken report, a statement said. The commission asked police to provide the information by Friday, it added.
Earlier this month, the Cyber Cell had lodged an FIR against "pro-Khalistani" creators of the "toolkit" for waging a "social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India". The case was registered on charges of criminal conspiracy, sedition and various other sections of the Indian Penal Code.
"The email account created by Shantanu is the owner of this Google document," Nath said, adding that "pro-Khalistani group Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) founder Mo Dhaliwal had contacted them through a Canada-based woman named Punit."
Before the Republic Day violence, that left 500 police personnel injured and a protestor dead, Nikita and Shantanu had on January 11 attended a Zoom meeting organized by PFJ in which modalities were decided to create the "toolkit" titled "Global Farmer Strike" and "Global Day of Action, 26 January", Nath said.
"Jacob, Muluk, Ravi and others collaborated towards the draft of the toolkit. Based on information gathered from Nikita and her device, several teams were sent to Maharashtra's Beed district and to Bengaluru. Police said the trio created and edited the "toolkit".
Disha, who is also associated with the environmental movement called 'Fridays for Future', "sent the toolkit to Greta Thunberg through the Telegram app and also coaxed her to act on it." Disha Ravi was arrested in the presence of her mother, area station house officer (SHO) in Bengaluru. All due procedures were followed, he said.
Thousands of farmers protesting the Centre's new agri laws had clashed with the police during their tractor parade on January 26. Their parade had dissolved into unprecedented scenes of anarchy as protesters fought with police, overturned vehicles and delivered a national insult hoisting a religious flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort, a privilege reserved for India's Tricolour.