Toolkit Case: Transit Bail for Shantanu, Nikita Jacob Order on Wed
The Principal Bench of the Bombay High Court reserved its order on Nikita Jacob’s plea on Tuesday.
Activist Shantanu Muluk was granted transit anticipatory bail for 10 days by the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court in connection with the 'toolkit' case on Tuesday, 16 February.
Meanwhile, the Principal Bench of the Bombay High Court will pronounce its verdict on Wednesday on a plea moved by Advocate Nikita Jacob seeking protection from transit remand in the case.
The court will pronounce the verdict after having a look at the order passed by the Aurangabad Bench of the court, wherein co-accused Muluk was granted the same relief.
After the arrest of 21-year-old Disha Ravi in the toolkit controversy, non-bailable warrants were issued against Jacob and Muluk in the matter.
What Happened During Proceedings?
The proceedings in the case pertaining to Jacob commenced with the Delhi Police challenging the very concept of granting transit bail. Appearing for the Delhi police, Advocate Hiten Venegaokar argued that there’s no provision in the criminal procedure code for granting transit bail.
Venegaonkar further contended that this high court cannot grant relief to Jacob even under its writ jurisdiction as the case was registered in Delhi and not in Maharashtra.
Venegaokar consistently opposed the present plea on the ground that since the case is registered in Delhi, this court cannot grant any relief to Jacob under Section 438 of criminal procedure code.
Senior Advocate Mihir Desai, who was appearing for Jacob, began his arguments by claiming that territorial jurisdiction cannot be a ground for considering transit bail.
Desai said that Jacob has approached this court for a limited purpose, as there’s a non-bailable warrant against her from the Tis Hazari court in Delhi. He informed the court that the Delhi Police raided Jacob’s house, interrogated her, and also seized some of her electronic devices.
While informing the court that the Delhi police has invoked the offence of sedition against Jacob, Desai argued that the ‘protest toolkit' upon which the entire case is founded, doesn’t have any mention of “violent acts” or “taking over the Red Fort”.
“Jacob is a young lawyer, an activist for farmers’ protest with no connection with Khalistan. And now, she apprehends her arrest. She should be given limited protection so her career is not affected,” argued Desai.
During the proceedings, Desai intimated the court about the similar transit bail of 10 days being granted to co-accused Muluk by the Aurangabad Bench of the court. On this note, the court informed both the parties that it will pronounce its verdict tomorrow and called for the order in Muluk’s plea.
At this point, Desai sought interim relief from arrest for Jacob to which the court replied, “no prudent officer will take that step. In any case, a woman will not be arrested after sunset.”
What Did Nikita Jacob Say to the Police
Jacob had earlier told the Delhi Police that her intent was never to incite violence and there was nothing illegal in what she did. In her statement to the Delhi Police, accessed by Hindustan Times, Jacob pointed out that the document was simply an “information pack.”
“The information contained in the ‘toolkit’ does not in any manner incite riots or violence and is simply an information pack with information from various sources... No weapons, no violence, no mention of anything remotely violent in the toolkit or any of our communication.”Nikita Jacob to Delhi Police
Jacob pointed out that to prepare an informational kit for an ongoing movement was “natural and perfectly legal in a democracy guarded by a constitution as strong as ours.”
Jacob, however, accepted that she did play a role in gathering support for the farmers’ protests on social media with activists globally and maintained that there was nothing illegal about it.
She also reportedly denied sharing any information with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
In a statement on Monday, Jacob’s legal team had said that the Delhi Police had recorded her statement on 10 February. A team reached Mumbai and conducted searches at Jacob’s residence on 11 February.
In a press briefing on Monday, Delhi Police had said that Shantanu was the owner of the email account from which the toolkit was created.
“The initial examination of Nikita revealed that she and her associates, Shantanu and Disha, had created the ‘toolkit’ Google document. The email account created by Shantanu is the owner of this document and all others are its editors,” the police said.
The police further revealed that a Zoom meeting took place on 11 January, attended by Jacob and Shantanu and organised by the Poetic Justice Foundation – which the police deems as a ‘pro-Khalistani’ organisation, in which "the modalities of the Global Day of Action were worked out".
The police further said that a Canada-based woman named Puneet connected the three activists to the Poetic Justice Foundation.
“Based on the course of action decided in the Zoom meeting, Nikita, Shantanu, Disha, and others collaborated together to draft the toolkit document. The document that they drafted had secessionist and pro-Khalistani content embedded into it through links and texts,” the police said in a statement.
Muluk is an engineer and an activist, hailing from Beed, Maharashtra. He is also one of the founders of XR India, an environment organisation.
Ravi Denies Being Part of Any Conspiracy
These developments came amid politicking over the arrest of Ravi from Bengaluru on charges of “sharing and spreading” the ‘toolkit’ as apart of an alleged international conspiracy.
Ravi has denied being part of any conspiracy and said that she didn't create the toolkit and just made two edits to it.
Ravi is one of the co-founders of Fridays For Future (FFF) India, an offshoot of the climate movement kickstarted by Swedish environmentalist Greta Thunberg that mostly comprises school children and young college students.
(With inputs from NDTV)
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