Muluk, Jacob Withdraw Bail Pleas; No Arrest Sans 7-Day Notice

If the investigating agency wants to arrest them, they will have to provide seven-day advance notice, court said.

Updated
India
6 min read
Shantanu Muluk and Nikita Jacob.
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Mumbai-based advocate Nikita Jacob, activist Shantanu Muluk as well as climate activist Shubham Kar Chaudhari withdrew their bail applications in the ‘toolkit’ case from Delhi’s Patiala House Court on Monday, 15 March.

The withdrawal was subject to condition that if the investigating agency wants to arrest them, they will have to provide a seven-day advance notice.

Disposing the applications as withdrawn, the court said:

“At this stage, it has been proposed by defence counsels that they are willing to withdraw the bail applications subject to condition that if the investigating agency finds arrest of accused is imminent and unavoidable then seven days advance notice be given.”

Further the court informed that the Additional Public Prosecutor concedes to the same.

The Bail Pleas

Delhi’s Patiala House Court, on Monday, heard the anticipatory bail pleas of in connection to the ‘toolkit’ case.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for Muluk, argued that he had been cooperating with the investigation, and that creating a Google document is ‘not a crime.’

Senior Advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Nikita Jacob, stated that the role of the accused was “discussion and advocacy, and not incitement.”

Meanwhile, Shubham Chaudhari’s lawyer Soutik Banerjee said: “I (Chaudhari) give this case the masala it lacked which is (allegations of) funding from Pakistan. I have no role to play in this toolkit.”

The court had earlier adjourned the hearing to 15 March in the matter of anticipatory bail pleas filed by Jacob and Muluk in connection with the case.

The Principal Bench of the Bombay High Court, on 17 February, had granted transit anticipatory bail for three weeks to Jacob and asked her to furnish a bond of Rs 25,000.

On 25 February, Muluk was also granted protection from arrest by the Delhi court till 9 March in the case, as the Delhi Police sought more time to file a detailed reply on his plea.

‘Starting a Google Doc is Not a Crime’: Shantanu Muluk’s Lawyer

Advocate Grover, appearing for Muluk, has submitted that he is a 34-year-old engineer, with no criminal antecedents, and has deep roots in the society.

Stating that Muluk started working with the global environment movement, Extinction Rebellion, in 2019, Grover pointed out that even Members of Parliament (MPs) from the United Kingdom (UK) had participated in the non-violent movement started by Extinction Rebellion.

Grover said that Muluk has been cooperating with the investigation for over 18 days now, and that he had handed over his iPhone, iPad, and one Dell laptop to the police for purposes of the probe.

“Muluk has also been confronted with Disha Ravi and Nikita Jacob. Whatever he has said has been corroborated. There are no contradictions.”   
Advocate Vrinda Grover

Further Grover clarified that Muluk simply created an email id and a blank Google document.

Grover also pointed out that it is incorrect and misleading to say that Muluk was the ‘owner’ of the Google doc, dubbed ‘toolkit.’

“Starting a Google Doc is not a crime, many lawyers are also doing it these days,” Grover said.

Further, Grover said that Muluk had just made six edits to the Google doc.

“Muluk collated information available in public domain, then made a link for solidarity videos and photos... He did not add any content, or the link to Genocide Watch,” informed Grover.

He made a sample representation to be sent to the government, said Grover, adding:

“It was a non-violent, democratic form to express disagreement.”

When the Court observed that simply because one becomes inert at a point, he cannot escape responsibility, Grover said:

“For that to apply in this case, it has to be proven that the process started by Muluk was itself illegal. The propensity to cause violence is clearly missing. The threshold is not being met at all.”

Pointing out that Muluk has done nothing to the ‘toolkit’ since 18 January, Grover said that all the tweet banks and templates were added post 26 January.

Grover also said: “One of the tweets asked for peaceful resolution. Even the CJI had called for a peaceful resolution of this issue. So, where’s the violence here?”

Further, she said there is no evidence to show Muluk’s presence at the Bhagat Singh rally, even on 26 January, and that: “Muluk had gone to Tikri border only to ensure that eco-friendly plates are used for langar, and to work on converting the toilets into eco-friendly toilets.”

“Merely his presence at Tikri border would not attribute any criminality to Muluk.”   
Advocate Vrinda Grover

‘Role of All Accused is Discussion & Advocacy, Not Incitement’: Nitika Jacob’s Lawyer

Stating that Jacob, a practicing lawyer, had joined XR in September 2020, advocate John said: “No funds were transferred to Jacob, she was merely a volunteer.”

John also clarified that Jacob had given her statement to the police, which runs into 13 pages, and has “given everything.”

“Because of Jacob's 13-page statement, police de-sealed her iPhone. She was told to be present on the next date. She wasn't present on the next date. She left a note for her parents that she's going the court. She drafted her petition and mentioned the matter. Meanwhile, her house was raided in her absence,” John said.

Further, John said that the fact that Jacob ‘vanished from police’s gaze’ was noted by the Bombay High Court, which still granted her transit bail for three weeks.

Jacob does not know her co-accused, including Muluk, informed John. “She never met them face to face, as they live in different cities. She never came to Delhi.”

“Delhi Police should be mindful of the language they use in their reply,” advocate John said.

“Let’s not get overexcited just because there’s a link for Genocide Watch. It’s an international organisation which has content on other nations as well, including US.”
Rebecca John, Advocate

Further, John pointed out that the “country surely has a larger heart and intellect (than) to be affected by a public group.”

“The ‘objectionable tweet’ has 15 RTs and 29 likes – so much for spreading disinformation! People who are tweeting the template tweets are getting 15 likes. Will this affect the soul of the Republic of India?”
Rebecca John, Advocate

John also asked: “What is their case? That I (Jacob) spread rumours.”

“They're not saying that Jacob inciting violence, (they’re saying) at best she's rumour mongering .”

John argued that there was not an iota of incitement, which is the actual problem. Discussion and advocacy are not banned by law.

“The role of all accused is of discussion and advocacy, and not incitement,” she said

Further, John referred to MeToo and said each movement has a hashtag.

‘Pak-Funding Allegation Gave Case the Masala it Lacked’: Shubham Chaudhari’s Lawyer

Pointing out that the allegations against the third accused, Chaudhari, are a cut-paste of the allegations made against the other two accused (Muluk and Jacob), advocate Soutik Banerjee said: “Chaudhari’s work is just to coordinate because XR has a lot of chapters.”

“I (Chaudhari) am not even required to be informed as to what one chapter does. That is my role in the entire XR network.”   
Soutik Banerjee, Advocate

He further stated that Chaudhari had not even opened or seen the ‘toolkit.’

Referring to the allegations of him having forwarded the link to certain people in Pakistan, Banerjee said: “They have not put the communication on record.”

“As a liaison person who forwards messages to a lot of people regarding chapters, I have a broadcast list on my whatsapp… There is also a loudspeaker on the bottom of the message showing that it is a broadcasted message. So, I am forwarding this link to every person, not just Pakistan,” he said.

Further, Banerjee argued that merely forwarding a message to a person in Lahore or Islamabad does not make Chaudhari accused of anything.

He also informed that after Chaudhari was asked to join the investigation, he received protection from the HC but the police still came to his place in Goa and took his devices.

“I (Chaudhari) give this case the masala it lacked which is (allegations of) funding from Pakistan. I have no role to play in this toolkit.”   
Advocate Soutik Banerjee   

Further, Banerjee stated that that Chaudhari he had a contract with Climate 2025 since February 2020, and at that time, there was no question of farmers’ protest.

“Receiving of Chaudhari’s funding from Climate 2025 from February last year cannot be tainted in a different angle,” said Banerjee, adding that it is not a “hawala.”

“If you think there is any FCRA violation, we will respond to it,” said Banerjee.

“Mere communication from people of Pakistan is not a crime. Even our PM talks to their PM on his birthday,” said advocate Banerjee, to which the Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) asked him to not cite such examples.

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