Legal experts on Monday questioned the invoking of the sedition law in the Disha Ravi case, saying Delhi Police had ‘over-reacted’ and the 22-year-old climate activist’s arrest was ‘unwarranted’.
Former chief justice of Bombay high court Pradeep Nandrajogsaid the purpose of using Section 124-A (sedition) “contemplates use of force in overthrowing of a government established by law. It requires incitement of violence as held by the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath v State of Bihar case, but what’s important is the scale of such violence”.
“A protest may take a violent shape, but does it imply that every violent form of protest would attract a charge of sedition,” he asked, adding, “There is to my mind no question of invoking section 124-A (in the Disha Ravi case).”
Senior advocate and constitutional expert Rakesh Dwivedi agreed, saying the right to freedom of speech needs to be protected. “Supporting farmers does not amount to sedition. Everyone supports farmers and wants that the problem be resolved. Even the PM supports farmers. How can it be sedition?”
Senior counsel Amit Desai said the moot point was whether the police could have first invoked CrPC section 41-A — which involves a notice to the accused to seek an explanation where offences attract maximum seven-year punishment — before the arrest. “Looking at the types of sedition cases the country has seen in the recent past, the established principle that bail is the rule and jail is the exception should be considered even at the initial stage of production and first remand after arrest.”
Former Bombay HC judge B H Marpalle said both the arrest and the subsequent police custody granted by the local court were unwarranted. “It appears to be nothing more than youthful exuberance in trying to engage on socially important issues on her part, but it appears to be a more blatant attempt by police to silence the dissenters.”
Demanding Disha’s immediate release, Karnataka exadvocate general Prof Ravivarma Kumar said: “If an Indian girl, who is young and innocent, is arrested on charges of working against India and taken away (by Delhi Police) like this, then we have to question what kind of government have we got. It is nothing but an insult to Indian women.”
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves said the Centre was trying to scare the youth to prevent them from expressing their views against it. “The case is an example to send a message that if you speak up, you will be punished. But it will be counterproductive.”
However, former Jharkhand HC judge Ajit Sinha backed the arrest, saying the step was required for police to establish the chain of events. “It is very difficult to establish conspiracy without custodial interrogation. If she has admitted to have edited the toolkit then it is also a part of conspiracy. Her confession could lead to further arrests.”