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A salutary judgement for democracy

A salutary judgement for democracy

In a sharp blow to the state apparatus undermining its citizens' rights, stating trivial reasons, the Delhi Patiala House Additional Sessions Court has granted bail to 22-year - old activist Disha Ravi, jailed on charges of sedition. On February 13, the Delhi Police arrested Disha from her residence in Bengaluru for creating a toolkit in support of the farmers' protests. In this blatant violation of civil liberties, it was pointed out on the same day that not even the procedures to be observed when a person is taken away to a different state were followed in her arrest. Our country is witnessing a fascist tendency of fabricating cases of sedition and criminal conspiracy against politically active students and youth, deemed the spring of of pride in other countries. Last year's anti-CAA protests were also dealt with similarly by the state and the ruling party. When all provocation attempts failed to quell the protests, the Sangh Parivar resorted to orchestrating a riot. Soon after their carnage, they started hunting the student and youth leadership at the forefront of the protests. They did not even show consideration to Safoora Zargar, who was pregnant at the time of the arrest. (Paradoxically enough, it was the same judge Dharmendra Rana who heard Safoora's case in which the police raised allegations similar to the ones in Disha's case, after which Rana denied bail to Safoora). Now, there is a similar ploy to hunt down the farmers leading the movement – on their life-and-death issue - and their supporters, using draconian laws. The judgement exposes this ridiculousness.

Disha was charged with criminal conspiracy under section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code, sedition under 124-A and promoting enmity between groups under 153A. The police have raised allegations of defaming the country abroad on the pretext of farmers' protests and of creating a toolkit to instigate violence that took place in the capital city on Republic Day. The Court granted her bail, noting that the police presented no evidence in support of any of the above-mentioned allegations. Unable to prove Disha or her friends' connection with those under arrest or investigation in the violence in Delhi on January 26, the police changed the 'crime' to communicating with foreigners online. Neither Greta Thunberg nor Poetic Justice Foundation, the two Disha is alleged to have contacted online, is a banned entity. Another crime identified by the state was Disha's opinions on the various developments across the globe. Disha conversed with her lawyer on fears of being charged with UAPA, and even that was cited by the police as evidence against her. That speaks for the worrisome stranglehold of the state on the citizen.

The police, after these absurd excuses, clarified that although they had no direct evidence linking her to the violence of January 26, circumstantial evidence pointed to her being part of the 'grand conspiracy' of a separatist attack. However, the Court upheld the concept that communicating with global commentators would fall within the ambit of the fundamental right of freedom of expression conferred by the Constitution. The Court pointed out the 1967 Supreme Court judgement on Kedar Nath Singh vs the State of Bihar, which ruled that disagreeing with the state cannot be a jailable offence of sedition. The apex court had said back then that only activities done to create anarchy and violence in society would come under the ambit of sedition.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 5,922 people were charged with the UAPA between 2016 and 2019. However, only 132 of the accused could be prosecuted. In these times when the state resorts to such draconian measures to muzzle all voices of dissent, these just and humanitarian interventions from the judiciary, however rare, would help people restore their faith in democracy and justice - even if it is not sure to shake dictators who trample on human rights fearing the slightest movement from civil society.

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TAGS:Disha Ravi bail Patiala House court Judge Dharmendra Rana sedition charge with no evidence 
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