21-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi was on Sunday sent to five days police custody after being arrested for alleged involvement in the 'toolkit case'. For those who have not followed the topic, a protest toolkit shared by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg had gone viral in India for all the wrong reasons recently.
The post was deleted soon after being published, and Thunberg then posted an "updated" toolkit that was far less detailed. And as many saw this as conclusive proof of an "international conspiracy" against India, the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police lodged an FIR. The case was against the "pro-Khalistan" creators of the "toolkit" for waging a "social, cultural and economic war against the Government of India".
Disha Ravi came into the picture only recently. The young activist was arrested from Bengaluru on Saturday and now remains in police custody. The police said her custody was required to probe an alleged larger conspiracy against the government of India and to ascertain her alleged role relating to the Khalistan movement. During the hearing, Ravi reportedly broke down inside the courtroom and told the judge that she had edited only two lines and that she wanted to support the farmers' protest.
But even as a large number of social media users rail against the investigation, others contend that the proceedings themselves were problematic, and possibly even 'unlawful'.
In a Facebook post that has since been shared widely on social media, senior lawyer Rebecca Mammen John had said that she was "deeply disappointed" by the conduct of the Magistrate as he had not ensured beforehand that "she was being represented by counsel".
"If the accused was not being represented by counsel at the time of the hearing, the magistrate should have waited till her counsel arrived or in the alternate, provided her with legal aid . Were the case diaries and the arrest memo examined? Did the magistrate ask the Special cell why she was being produced directly from Bangalore without a transit remand from Bangalore courts?" she wondered, calling the situation a "shocking abdication of judicial duties".
Activist Saket Gokhale took to Twitter stating that he had filed an RTI with the Delhi Police asking for a copy of the transit remand. Citing the allegations that the transit remand had not been obtained by the Delhi Police when it took Disha into custody in Bengaluru and transported her to Delhi, Gokhale alleged that this implied "unlawful custody".
He also shared a copy of his RTI application, seeking a copy of the FIR and asking the police to state whether "a transit remand was obtained from the competent court in Bengaluru" in the case of Disha's arrest from the city. It also sought to know whether the case diary and the arrest memo were filed before the Magistrate in the remand application.
They are not the only people to have voiced concerns.
"Why do we arrest people at the drop of a hat? If someone is guilty, prosecute and punish them. Pre-trial arrest (as a substitute for punishment) is an abdication of the responsibility of the police to investigate. It also numbs us as a citizenry," tweeted senior advocate Saurabh Kirpal on Sunday evening.
Speaking to NDTV, senior advocate Dr. Colin Gonsalves wondered which part of the toolkit had content that could be construed as a "criminal offence". He contended that the document was simply a manual for peaceful protest and did not aim to incite violence.