Table of contents:
- What is Tool Kit?
- What is the Greta Thunberg toolkit case?
- Previous such example pointed out by activists
- What are the existing provisions for such arrest?
- Why government actions on activists are justified?
- Judicial interventions on such cases in the past
- Challenges faced by the government in arresting activists
Recently Climate activist in India was arrested in the Greta Thunberg toolkit case. Delhi police filed an FIR and issued a non-bailable warrant against two other persons related to the case. Many activists are of the opinion that the arrests are allegedly politically motivated and the government is silencing its critics. But it is just one side of the argument.
What is Tool Kit?
- A toolkit is a set of essential guidelines or suggestions to get something done. The contents of the tool kit differ depending upon the activity. For example, the recent self-regulation tool kit by OTT platforms for self-regulation.
- The tool kit is also released by governments. For example, the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) has a toolkit for better implementation of IPR (Intellectual Property Right) in India.
- A tool kit is also used during protests. It contains pieces of information to help the protesters to promote their campaign and to become popular as much as possible.
- It was used more actively in Wall Street protests of 2011, Hong Kong protests of 2019, and anti-CAA protests across India.
- During the anti-CAA protests, a toolkit suggested places to hold protests, Twitter hashtags to use, and other similar guides were shared on social media.
What is the Greta Thunberg toolkit case?
Greta Thunberg is an 18-year-old Swedish environmental activist. She shared a toolkit on Twitter during the anti-farm law protests. The tool kit suggested few activities like creating a Twitter storm and protesting outside Indian embassies, etc. Due to severe criticism, the activist deleted the tweet within a few minutes. However, it already got circulated on social media.
The Cyber Cell of Delhi Police filed an FIR against unknown people for creating and spreading the toolkit. The Police also claimed the Poetic Justice Foundation (PJF) as a key conspirator. (Poetic Justice Foundation is responsible for pro-Khalistani activities). The police also accused the PJF of waging a “social, economical and cultural war against India”.
The Delhi Police claimed a Climate Activist in India as the editor of “toolkit Google doc” and a “key conspirator” in the toolkit formulation and distribution. The Delhi Police arrested the activist and issued a non-bailable warrant against two other persons.
Previous such example:
The activists are claiming these arrests as politically motivated and an example of the government silencing its critics. These were,
- Sitaram Yechury, a well-known politician
- Yogendra Yadav, an activist and academic
- Jayati Ghosh, an economist
- Rahul Roy, a documentary filmmaker
- Apoorvanand, a Delhi University professor.
What are the existing provisions for such arrest?
- The Government enacted the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000 for matters related to cybercrime and e-commerce. Based on the Act, the Government can punish for any crime committed through a computer or a network. The Act can charge foreigners also.
- The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967. The Act aims to prevent the activities and associations involved in unlawful activities effectively. In 2019 the act was amended to include the provisions of designating an individual as a terrorist. The Law prescribes the death penalty or life imprisonment as maximum punishment.
- Sedition cases under IPC section 124A (Indian Penal Code). Sedition is defined as any action that brings or attempts to bring contempt or hatred towards the government of India. This section provides a maximum sentence of up to life imprisonment.
- Criminal defamation under section 499 of the IPC. This section defines defamation as a communication of a false statement that harms the reputation of an individual person, product, group, business, government, religion, or nation.
- Several states have also enacted a few specific laws to govern the criticisms. For example, the Draft Bill of Maharashtra’s Shakti Act has a stringent provision for offenders who post defamatory messages on social media.
- Not all the critics got arrested under these laws. These laws have utility in combating anti-national, secessionist and terrorist individuals and organizations. Few highly publicized cases cannot be the example of politically motivated arrests.
- The laws were enacted to prevent the individual/organisation from indulging in contempt of government. This is essential for the smooth functioning of democracy.
- There are instances where activists are involved in destabilizing the democratically elected government. These laws act as a strong defence against such activities aimed to overthrow the government.
- Prevent the sovereignty of India: India is surrounded by countries like Pakistan, China. So India needs to prevent foreign influences in Indian policymaking. These laws aid the government in preventing undue foreign influences.
Judicial interventions on such cases in the past:
The Supreme Court in various instances regulated and restricted the politically motivated arrests but at the same time, the Court also punished the wrongdoers.
- In G. Narasimhan & Others vs T. V. Chokkappa (1972) case: the Supreme Court held that a person could be defamed only if there is a definite, identifiable and established evidence.
- In Fatma Bibi Ahmed Patel vs State of Gujarat (2008) case: the Supreme Court held that the registration of a case against a foreigner for an offence committed outside India was illegal. The court further held that the government had no jurisdiction for such offences.
- In K. T. M. S. Abdul Cader v. Union of India (1977) case: The Madras High Court accepted the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the Indian Parliament. However, the court also held that such law would be ineffective so long as the foreigner remains outside India.
So in conclusion, a foreigner can be dealt with the Indian law only if he is present within the territory. Under this only, Ajmal Kasab was tried in India for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Challenges faced by the government in arresting activists:
- The government’s stringent action on criticisms attracts a confluence of such activists leading to various troubles. Like severe criticism of government policies and initiatives, false propaganda, etc.
- The stringent action of government is also bringing down India’s image in the international arena. Many times arresting a famous activist coincides with foreign government criticising Indian acts. For example, many countries explicitly issued statements against the arrest of CAA protesters and criticised India without consulting and analysing the Act.
- The stringent action on activists is also seen as a violation of the Fundamental Right. Like the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
- Global Human Rights Watch also mentions arrests on activists as a violation of Human Rights.
- It is also seen as a burden to Indian Judiciary and reducing the accountability of the police for their abuses.
- It can also create an image among supporters like they are free to commit abuses against communities who are in minority.
- The government has to strike the midline between constructive criticism and criticisms destabilising India. So, to achieve that the government has to set up a committee to examine and supervise the process. Like
- Designating individuals and organisations as a threat.
- Investigation of cases in Fair and Just manner etc.
- The government has to train Law enforcement authorities to prevent the problem of misuse.
- The government can also try implementing the following steps. Such as
- Barring the state governments, local bodies and other institutions (statutory functions) from filing numerous suits.
- Providing lesser punishments such as corrections, apologies, and retractions, for lesser form of crimes.
India is the largest democracy in the world. Right to dissent is considered as the lifeblood of any democracy. So, the government should restrict the politically motivated arrest. But at the same time checking the divisive forces is also essential for the government.