The All-India Lawyers’ Association for Justice (AILAJ) strongly condemns the whollyarbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional arrest of Ms. Disha Ravi, a 21-year-old resident of Bengaluru on 13.02.2021.
A few weeks ago, it was alleged that a group of people were involved in an international conspiracy to cause disaffection against the government. According to media reports, Ms. Disha Ravi was subsequently accused of offences under Sections 124A, 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 in an FIR filed in Delhi in this regard. On the basis of this FIR, Ms.Ravi was arrested and flown out of Bengaluru to Delhi, in violation of all established procedures and norms in constitutional and criminal law.
The nature of Ms. Ravi’s arrest is illustrative of law enforcement agencies’, especially the Delhi Police’s, growing contempt for the Rule of Law. Ms. Ravi was picked up from her home by the Delhi Police but was not allowed access to her lawyer, and flown out of Bangalore without either being produced before a Magistrate or obtaining a transit remand..
Article 22(2) mandates that every person who is arrested shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a Circular dated 16.05.2012, which reiterates that it is mandatory to produce the accused before the nearest magistrate, in case of inter-state arrests. The Circular explicitly states thus:
It is seen that in many cases, the police officers carrying out arrest in another State bring back the arrested person and produce him before the Magistrate in their own jurisdiction. However, this procedure is not in accordance with law. According to Section 80, a person arrested must be produced before the Executive Magistrate or the Deputy Superintendent of police or the Commissioner of Police within whose jurisdiction the arrest was made unless the court which issued the warrant is within 30 kilometres of the place of arrest or is nearer than the Executive Magistrate or the Deputy Superintendent of Police or the Commissioner of Police within whose jurisdiction the arrest was made. It is emphasised that Section 80 CrPC must be comp
Further, the Delhi High Court in Sandeep Kumar v State (NCT) of Delhi (2020) has held that in order for an inter-state arrest to be initiated, the police from the state that intends on making the arrest must contact and coordinate with the concerned police from the state where the arrest is being made
However, it appears that the Bengaluru Police was kept completely in the dark about the arrest and Ms. Ravi was not produced before a Magistrate in Bengaluru before being flown to Delhi. Further, it was only after more than 72 hours of custody that Ms. Ravi has been permitted access to the FIR lodged against her following orders from the Magistrate. This clearly marks an erosion of constitutional order if court orders are necessitated to share copies of an FIR with the person accused of serious offences. In Delhi, she was produced before a Magistrate, where the lawyer of her choice was not informed of the place of such production. She was remanded to five days of police custody by the Magistrate in the absence of her lawyer.There is little to no clarity on whether the case diary was produced before the Magistrate in Delhi and if there was any application of mind while remanding her to police custody for five days.
It is also necessary to highlight the charges that Ms. Ravi faces as this will demonstrate the absurdity of the allegations and raise serious questions on how such a complaint even came to be registered. The FIR alleges that there is a “global conspiracy to bring or attempt to bring into hatred or contempt or excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the government established by law in India” and that the contents of a toolkit and documentmake out offences under Section 124A, 153A, 153 read with 120B. This document according to the FIR is said to have encouraged people to “find protests happening in your city/state/country and participate in large or small numbers or organise one”, “organise solidarity protests either near Indian embassies, near your local government offices” and “record videos and take pictures to support the protest”. The FIR further alleges that anaction place was drawn out “to further sustain the protests and draw popularity”. The FIR further alleges that there is a call for “economic warfare against India and certain Indian companies” and a call to “target symbols linked to Indian culture such as yoga and chai”.The FIR thus suggests that a call for protests, and the speaking out against Indian companies and “yoga and chai” would amount to an offence of sedition under Section 124A and promoting enmity between different groups. It is of grave concern that personal liberty is being sacrificed at the hands of such absurd allegations.
The Supreme Court, in Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar, has curtailed the meaning of sedition and limited its application to acts involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence. This legal position on sedition was further strengthened in the Supreme Court in Balwant Singh And Anr vs State of Punjab where the court held that the mere act of two individuals raising the slogan “Khalistan Zindabad”in the aftermath of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination could not be saidto be exciting disaffection towards the government.
AILAJ notes with great distress that such muzzling of dissent is done with the intention of intimidating the general public by creating a climate of fear. The simple act of thinking and speaking is being criminalised even as bright and articulate minds are being targeted for daring to challenge fascist forces. The worrying frequency with which young citizens of this country are being incarcerated over flimsy charges poses a serious threat to our democracy.
We, therefore, demand that Ms. Ravi be immediately released and that the FIR against her be withdrawn forthwith. We also demand that an enquiry be conducted against the Police Officials who have arrested Ms. Ravi and that strict action be initiated against them for the lawless manner in which they have deprived her of her of personal liberty.