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Delhi HC Issues Notice to Police Based on Activist Disha Ravi’s Plea, Asks Police Not to Leak Information to Media

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Source: Disha Ravi's Twitter handle

The Delhi High Court on Thursday issued a notice to the Delhi Police on a plea filed by climate activist Disha Ravi seeking to restrain from leaking information to media, Live Law reported.

The petition also sought action against news channels like News18, Times Now, India Today and NBSA for allegedly reporting “one-sided” information about her and showcasing her WhatsApp chats.

Taking into record Solicitor General Tushar Mehta’s statement on behalf of the Delhi Police, that they have not leaked any information, the court directed the police to file a counter affidavit in the matter by Friday morning.

Ravi, the 21-year-old Bengaluru-based student-climate activist, was arrested by the Cyber Prevention Awareness Detection of Delhi Police Special Cell on February 14 from Bengaluru for allegedly making edits in the toolkit shared by Greta Thunberg related to India’s ongoing farmers’ protest. She was remanded five-days police custody by the Patiala House court in the case.

Thunberg was one of the international icons, along with pop star Rihanna, adult film actor Mia Khalifa, American lawyer-author and US Vice President Kamala Harris’ cousin Meena Harris, and several other international journalists, professors and authors, to raise concerns and support the protesting Indian farmers, drawing global attention to the issue. The Indian farmers have been protesting for a few months now against the three Farm Bills passed by the Centre during its 2020 monsoon session.

Thunberg attached a toolkit in her tweet thread on February 3 which she later deleted. On February 4, she posted an updated toolkit and wrote: “Here’s an updated toolkit by people on the ground in India if you want to help. (They removed their previous document as it was outdated.).”

A toolkit is a social media document or booklet which explains an issue or cause. It contains all the details, a set of guidelines, that are necessary for an individual to make their contribution to supporting a particular cause. In protests, a toolkit comes with a methodology of the protest including guidelines for social media protests and materials to contextualise the cause or issue.

Thunberg’s updated toolkit contains information on the ongoing farmers’ protest, the “urgent” and “prior” actions that can be taken to help and support them, such as suggestions about signing petitions, mailing government officials, trending hashtags #StandWithFarmers and #FarmersProtest or protesting in front of government offices and Indian embassies.

The Delhi Police had filed a First Information Report (FIR) against the creators of the toolkit mentioning that they had not named anyone in the FIR. It also mentioned that the toolkit was created by an organisation “calling itself the Poetic Justice Foundation, a Khalistani group”.

On Thursday, the writ petition filed by Ravi stated that the statements tweeted from the Delhi Police’s official Twitter handle following her arrest “constitute an opinionated and judgmental statement and significantly impinge” on her right to privacy and fair trial, and violate the “Advisory on Media Policy of Police” prejudging the accused and “disclose confidential and prejudicial information about the status of (the) investigation”.

Ravi filed a plea against the Delhi Police alleging that they had leaked confidential information to the media regarding the criminal case against her while seeking to restrain from it. In her plea, she sought directions to take action against News18, Times Now, India Today, NBSA and other satellite television channels for publishing “one-sided defamatory, suggestive innuendos, and half-truths” about her in the case. 

Ravi alleged that such reporting has disrupted her fundamental right to privacy and is “grossly violative of her right to a fair trial and presumption of innocence”.

Stating that her mobile phone and laptop was seized on February 13 by the police after which no one else had access to them, Ravi alleged the Delhi Police “leaked investigative material” by way of her alleged “WhatsApp chats, the substance and details of which were only in the possession of the Investigating Agency.”

Ravi also accused that India Today TV of having “accessed WhatsApp chats between Greta Thunberg and Disha Ravi” and running reports titled “WhatsApp Chats between Greta Thunberg, Disha Ravi”.

In her writ petition, Ravi stated that publishing her private WhatsApp chats “is a clear violation of the provisions of the Cable Sections the Cable Televisions Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (CTN Act), the Programme Code and the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines.”

The Solicitor General said: “There has been no leakage from our side, we can also file an affidavit. Nothing is being shared. This is a call for media attention.”

Senior advocate Amit Sibal, who is representing Ravi, said: “They can say whatever, but the facts speak otherwise. She was arrested on 13th, and material was seized by police… Media itself says that they have got records from police, how are they accessing these records?”

“This is a most unfortunate case where the media, in order to gain a few thousand TRPs, is trampling over the rights of the citizens. A 22-year-old has been arrested, and it’s being called a call for media attention?” Sibal said.

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