Mumbai: Advocate Nikita Jacob, through her lawyer, on Tuesday told the Bombay High Court that she absconded because she was scared that Delhi Police might arrest her and this could jeopardize her career. She further said that the 'toolkit' was prepared by many youngsters, including Disha, and it only urged the people to support farmers and had no mention of violence. The HC is likely to pass orders on Jacob's plea seeking interim protection from arrest till the time she moves an appropriate court in Delhi.
Senior advocate Mihir Desai, who was appearing for Jacob, told a bench of Justice Prakash Naik that his client is an 'enthusiastic environmentalist' and had no intention of suggesting farmers or the protestors take over the Red Fort during the Republic Day tractor rally.
"The Delhi police had raided my house on February 11 and seized my client's phone and also her computer. They did not arrest her the same day since it was already sunset; nonetheless, they told her that they would return the next day to arrest her. She is a young advocate, who knows her duties. She feared her career would be jeopardised and thus she absconded," Desai told the court.
"As far as the toolkit in question is concerned, it is just a document prepared by several people and circulated on the internet. It caught everyone's attention only after Swedish activist Greta Thunberg shared it," Desai said.
Further trashing the police's contention that the toolkit urged people to create a 'tweetstorm', Desai said that it only informed people what they should do to support farmers. "It only says that you should support farmers through Twitter. Basically, telling people to do this and do that but not violence. The toolkit nowhere mentions violence or suggests people take over the Red Fort," Desai argued.
Desai further pointed out that initially, the FIR did not name Jacob and her name was added at a later stage. "They have charged my client with sedition. But the ruling in Kedarnath's case by the top court clearly states that sedition cannot be slapped unless there is violence. It is our case, the toolkit did not speak of violence at all."
The submission was made in response to the contention of the Delhi Police through special counsel Hiten Venegaonkar, who urged the court not to grant any protection to Jacob since she has absconded. He further alleged that the toolkit was prepared by jailed activist Disha Ravi, Jacob and a few others, who were active members of a Khalistani group.
"We do not want to name those two persons at this stage of the matter. But yes, they belong to the banned outfit - People, which propagates Khalistani ideology," Venegaonkar submitted.
According to Venegaonkar, the preliminary probe reveals that Disha had formed a WhatsApp group on December 6 and the toolkit was prepared by the all the accused in the first week of January and was saved in their Google drive.
"The drive shows Disha and Jacob as the creators of the toolkit. It was used by the protestors during the Republic Day rally wherein there was a massacre of over 400 policemen, who were left injured. Unfortunately, all this took place when the Prime Minister was delivering his speech," Venegaonkar claimed.
Having heard the contentions, Justice Naik adjourned the matter for passing orders till Wednesday.
Shantanu Muluk gets pre-arrest relief: The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted interim protection from arrest to Shantanu Muluk, the associate of advocate Nikita Jacob; he too is accused of preparing the toolkit which allegedly instigated the violence at Delhi during the Republic Day tractor rally by farmers. A bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi noted that 'mere apprehension of arrest is a key factor' and that Muluk is a resident of Beed district and would require time to reach New Delhi, engage an advocate and seek protection from arrest. The judge, accordingly, protected Muluk from arrest for 10 days to enable him to visit Delhi and seek protection from a court there, since the FIR is lodged in the national capital.