In a significant judgment passed on Tuesday, Additional Sessions Judge Dharmender Rana of the Patiala House Court granted bail to activist Disha Ravi in the toolkit FIR case on account of “scanty and sketchy evidence” against her.
In his 18-page judgment passed today, the judge pertinently held that “citizens cannot be put behind bars simply because they disagree with the government.”
Even as civil society lauds the judge for his bold judgment, here’s a look at some of the other pertinent orders passed by him in the recent past.
Sedition cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet
Just days before granting bail to Disha Ravi, Judge Rana released on bail a 21-year-old labourer who was accused of committing the offence of sedition.
The law of sedition is a powerful tool that cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants, Judge Rana had opined in that order.
“The law of sedition is a powerful tool in the hands of the state to maintain peace and order in the society. However, it cannot be invoked to quieten the disquiet under the pretence of muzzling the miscreants,” the order states.
He had also clarified that in the absence of exhortation or incitement to create disorder, or disturb public peace, or resort to violence, the law of sedition could not be invoked.
Sinful to execute condemned convicts when law permits them to live
Before the issuance of the final death warrant dated March 3, 2020, Judge Rana had twice deferred the execution of the four convicts in view of the fact that the convicts were yet to exhaust all their legal remedies.
“Despite stiff resistance from the victim’s side, I am of the opinion that any condemned convict must not meet his Creator with a grievance in his bosom that the courts of this country has not acted fairly in granting him an opportunity to exhaust his legal remedies,” Judge Rana had said after noting that convict Pawan’s fresh mercy plea was pending consideration before the President.
Before that, in February 2020, Judge Rana had refused to issue a date for execution of the four convicts in view of the Delhi High Court order granting time to them to exhaust their legal remedies.
“It is criminally sinful to execute the condemned convicts when the law permits them to live,” he had said.
A day before the hanging, Judge Rana, however, dismissed the convicts’ application to stay the execution of the death warrants. While doing so, he held,
“The time consumed by the process of law has even led some diffident voices to be timorously question the very efficacy of ‘Rule of Law’. Let me inform all the suspecting souls that in this great land of Gautam Buddha and Gandhi, ‘Rule of Law’ and not impetuous mob mentality, decides the fate of even the most wretched criminals and most abominable crimes. The resilience of law signifies the inherent safeguards against human errors and not the weakness of law.”
In view of the series of applications moved by some of the Nirbhaya convicts to defer their execution, Judge Rana even remarked that while it was the duty of an advocate to represent his client to the best of his/her abilities, the same could not be extended to the extent of procuring relief to the client by resorting to all kinds of schemes and stratagems.
He had thereafter referred the issue to the Bar CounciI of India “for appropriate sensitization”.
When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind
In June 2020, while dealing with the embargo under Section 43D (5) of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, Judge Rana had dismissed the bail plea filed by Jamia student and accused Safoora Zargar in the Delhi riots case.
Zargar was 21 weeks pregnant at the time.
Judge Rana had observed that an activity which has the tendency to create disorder or disturbance of an extent that brings the entire city to its knees and the entire government machinery to a halt, as in the present case, would be treated as an unlawful assembly under Section 2(o) UAPA.
“When you choose to play with embers, you cannot blame the wind to have carried the spark a bit too far and spread the fire,” he said as he opined that it could not be said that there was no prima facie case against Zargar.
Police in state of inscrutable indolence
While dealing with the Delhi riots case under UAPA, Judge Rana also pulled up the Delhi Police for being a “state of inscrutable indolence in collection of relevant video footage”.
Requesting the DCP concerned to personally monitor the investigation in the case, Judge Rana had said,
“They say a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand pictures. The police seems to be in a state of inscrutable indolence in collection of relevant video footage. The indolence is a cause of concern as evidence in criminal matters is invariably ephemeral on nature.”
In the same order, Judge Rana clarifed that while it was not the task of the court to direct the police as to how and what evidence was required to be collected, the court was duty-bound to ensure a fair investigation.