New Delhi: The Bombay high court on Wednesday granted three weeks’ transit anticipatory bail to lawyer and activist Nikita Jacob. A Delhi court had earlier issued a non-bailable warrant against Jacob in the alleged conspiracy involving a social media toolkit for the farmers’ protest.
The Delhi Police has said that Jacob, Shantanu Muluk and Disha Ravi were involved in creating the toolkit shared by Greta Thunberg. Why this would involve a conspiracy, however, is unclear, since the “toolkit” was in fact a collection of articles, social media handles and information on the farmers’ protest, for anyone wanting to learn about the issue and spread the message.
Ravi is currently in the Delhi Police’s custody, while Muluk was granted 10 days anticipatory transit bail by the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court on Monday.
Jacob is a practising lawyer and an environmental activist. She has said she has “no religious, political and financial motive or agenda for researching, discussing, editing and circulating toolkits for raising awareness.” The activist joined Extinction Rebellion – an organisation started by Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg – about two years ago.
Jacob’s lawyer, senior advocate Mihir Desai, argued that the “toolkit” had nothing to do with the violence on Republic Day and became a “big issue” because Greta Thunberg shared it. “Now the tool kit was allegedly prepared by a number of people…The tool kit does not talk about violence, doesn’t talk about taking over Red Fort,” he said in court, according to LiveLaw.
Earlier, the Delhi Police had asked Google and some social media giants to provide information about email IDs, URLs and certain social media accounts related to the creators of the “toolkit” shared by teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and others on Twitter in connection with the farmers’ protest.
The Cyber Cell had lodged an FIR against unnamed “pro-Khalistan” 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 police said.
Addressing a press conference earlier, a senior Delhi Police officer said initial investigation linked the document with a pro-Khalistan group named “Poetic Justice Foundation”.
According to the police, the “toolkit” has a particular section that mentions “digital strike through hashtags on or before January 26, tweet storms on January 23 onwards, physical action on January 26 and watch-out or join farmers march into Delhi and back to borders”.
As The Wire has explained in detail, a ‘toolkit’ is prepared for protests often, as it helps remote sympathisers access and participate in the movement, promoting strength in numbers. In a long-term movement, it can be assumed to be a successor of the pamphlet that delineates the ethos of the protest.
The fact that the government – including external affairs minister S. Jaishankar – is painting this toolkit as some sort of proof of conspiracy has been questioned by several experts. Retired IPS officer N.C. Asthana has written for The Wire about why the police’s claims are not made out, and its investigations into the matter do not make sense.
Speaking to NDTV, retired Supreme Court judge Justice Deepak Gupta said that he could not see anything seditious in the toolkit document that Ravi and others had shared. “Every citizen of this country has a right to oppose the government so long as the opposition is peaceful,” he said.