MUMBAI/AURANGABAD: Beed engineer Shantanu Muluk, one of the two activists faced with a non-bailable warrant in the farmers’ protest toolkit case, got relief from the Bombay high court on Tuesday, while the other, Mumbai-based lawyer Nikita Jacob, will know on Wednesday.
The HC’s Aurangabad bench granted a 10-day transit anticipatory bail to Muluk, and in Mumbai, reserved a similar plea by Jacob for orders after Delhi police’s special counsel Hiten Venegaonkar raised objections to the HC’s power to grant her relief. Justice P D Naik, who heard Jacob’s plea, concluded the hearing in the evening and said he would pass the order on Wednesday.
“Nikita Jacob is not named in the FIR… The toolkit was prepared by many. It doesn’t talk of violence nor of taking over Red Fort or anything,” said Jacob’s counsel Mihir Desai.
The Delhi cyber cell is investigating an FIR registered for sedition, acts prejudicial to communal harmony and criminal conspiracy and had on Saturday picked up activist Disha Ravi from Bengaluru, who has been remanded in custody by a Delhi court. The toolkit for the farmers’ stir was tweeted by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who deleted it later.
Both Jacob and Muluk moved HC on Monday for an urgent hearing, apprehending arrest in the case for serious offences. They said the protection would enable them to exercise their right to then seek regular pre-arrest bail before a court in Delhi.
Both said Delhi police had visited their homes and seized materials. Jacob’s house was searched, said Desai, and documents and her computer were seized on February 11, with police also recording a “detailed statement” of hers.
Desai argued, “She is an enthusiastic environmentalist.” He said, “Several young persons prepared the toolkit. Their allegation is she is one of them. What they allege is one person is a Khalistani. Belongs to an organisation called Poetic Justice.” The group named by Delhi police is the Poetic Justice Foundation. He added, “The name doesn’t even suggest it is pro-Khalistani.” Desai also said, “It is not a banned organisation.”
The Delhi police team had been stationed in Beed for the last three days, said Muluk’s counsel Satej Jadhav before the Aurangabad bench of Justice Vibha Kankanwadi, who initially questioned his plea for a three-week transit protection. She said a person can reach Delhi in a matter of two hours. Jadhav said time was needed to consult his lawyers in Delhi and prepare his case. Additional public prosecutor Sandip Mahajan opposed Muluk’s plea in Aurangabad.
Both Mahajan and Venegaonkar said the Bombay HC had no jurisdiction over the matter as of now and cited a couple of judgments by Supreme Court and the Patna high court to back their stand that unless an HC has jurisdiction over a case, it cannot grant transit anticipatory bail.
Muluk and Jacob’s case was that their apprehension of arrest is real and HC is empowered to grant such interim protection, even when a non-bailable warrant was issued in a serious offence.
Venegaonkar said police took into consideration that Jacob is a woman and recorded her statement in her house where she undertook to remain present the next day at 10 am, but the next day she had absconded. Justice Naik said, “Else she would have been arrested the next day.” Venegaonkar said, “In spite of searching and waiting for her for an entire day, she did not show up. That’s why NBW was issued.”
Desai argued she is exercising her rights and had immediately applied for transit relief. She wants to protect her professional career. If she is arrested, it would be ruined, he said. Desai submitted that the alleged toolkit only came to light after the January 26 protests when it was tweeted by Thunberg.
After HC reserved the plea for order, Venegaonkar, when asked by the court, said police would be prudent and were unlikely to take any step now since the order is to be pronounced on Wednesday. He said in any case, after sunset, women are not arrested. The HC said that is also a prudent step.

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