In a scathing statement released on Thursday, February 25, the human rights organisation People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) condemned the 'witch-hunt' against activists and dissenters incriminated in the 'toolkit case' related to farmers' protest.
The PUCL demanded that the state withdraws prosecution against Disha Ravi, Nikita Jacob, Shantanu Muluk and all others who are "being falsely implicated in this frivolous conspiracy case".
The 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi was granted bail by a Delhi sessions court on Tuesday, February 23, on a personal bond and two sureties of ₹1 lakh each. The human rights watchdog welcomed the court order noting that with her arrest started a series of violations - from "abduction by the Delhi Police" from her Bengaluru residence in violation of legal procedures and constitutional protections, to denial of the right to legal representation and through the invocation of the sedition law simply on account of Ravi voicing her opinions.
"The FIR in this case, makes a mockery of the Indian Constitution by its strained effort to paint dissent, disagreement and protest as a grand anti-national conspiracy," read the statement. It further said that the prosecution portrayed the acts of solidarity like organising gatherings and recording videos as illegal and besmirched with an anti-national sentiment.
Based on the premise that the draconion laws like UAPA, NSA were conveniently used to curb youthful curiosity and passion for change by punishing criticism and knocking down dissent, the PUCL called on the central government to stop the 'witch-hunt' against the profarmers, activists and young people exercising their constitutional right to free speech, dissent and assembly seeking accountability and transparency from the government and its institutions.
"Laws such as UAPA which criminalise the freedom to think, express and associate must also be repealed immediately," said PUCL.
The FIR against the social activists in connection with the 'toolkit' was lodged by the Delhi Police on charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity. It claimed that the document in question had given a call for economic warfare against India and certain Indian companies.
In Disha Ravi's 23rd February bail order, the Delhi sessions court judge stated that the citizens were conscience keepers of government in any democratic nation and that they could not be put behind bars because they chose to disagree with the State's policies. "The offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the governments," the judgement read.