A day after Disha Ravi was taken into police custody, a Delhi court issued non-bailable warrants against Nikita Jacob (29), a Mumbai-based lawyer, and Shantanu Muluk (31), an engineer from Beed in Marathwada — prompting them to immediately approach the Bombay high court on Monday for protection from arrest.
Delhi Police said it sought a warrant against Jacob after she absconded from her residence in Mumbai while being questioned. However, Jacob, in her petition, expressed “apprehension” that “under the guise of investigation she might be arrested in a false and frivolous case”. She said she feared police action “due to political vendetta and media trial”.
Delhi Police said search warrants were issued against Jacob and Muluk after a technical probe established that they held several meetings on Zoom along with Ravi and others to draft a document for circulation that had secessionist and pro-Khalistani content embedded into it through links and text. Jacob’s application said she had “not committed any crime, as appears to have been alleged or otherwise”.
Nikita Jacob lawyers said Delhi Police’s non-bailable warrants were issued on the “wrong pretext” that she was absconding. Jacob said, “It is difficult for women to travel to other states and to defend themselves with the cloud of fear of getting arrested in transit on the basis of this frivolous/ false complaint.
Delhi Police joint commissioner Prem Nath said, “After registration of an FIR, a technical investigation was launched and as soon as the probe was able to fetch enough information, a search warrant was obtained on February 9 against Mumbai-based lawyer Nikita Jacob, who had emerged as one of the editors of the Toolkit Google document.”
Jacob said that she began legal practice in 2014 and has an “untainted reputation”. She said that she had “volunteered in an environmental movement called Extinction Rebellion “that helps create awareness of… environmental crisis… worldwide and helps create a positive change… with non-violent means”.
Her plea seeking transit anticipatory bail for four weeks was brought before Justice P D Naik; her lawyer sought an urgent hearing and the judge scheduled it for Tuesday. Meanwhile, Shantanu Muluk (31), the engineer from Beed in Marathwada, moved the Aurangabad bench of Bombay high court for similar relief of transit pre-arrest bail, which will also be heard on Tuesday.
Jacob, Delhi Police alleged, was in touch with Khalistan sympathiser Mo Dhaliwal and his Canadian associate Puneet, who got in touch with her with the idea of creating a Twitter storm before Republic Day. Armed with the warrant, a team reached Mumbai and searched her house on February 11 after due intimation to Mumbai Police, joint commissioner Nath said.
Two laptops and an iPhone were found with documents, he added. The Delhi team was accompanied by a constable from Vanrai police station. “Keeping in mind that the person whose premises were being searched as per court orders was a woman, the investigating team wound up the day’s search and requested Nikita to make herself available at her house on the next morning. She gave a written undertaking to remain present,” Nath said.
However, she was found missing the next morning, he added. A Delhi Police team stationed in Beed in Maharashtra for the past three days has similarly searched and seized materials from the residence of Shantanu Muluk.
“The email account created by Shantanu is the owner of this document and all others are its editors,” DCP (cyber cell) Anyesh Roy said. Both Jacob and Muluk have filed transit anticipatory bail pleas raising apprehensions about the likelihood of an arrest.
Both are asking the high court for an opportunity to present their case before the Delhi court and seek regular pre-arrest bail from it.
Represented by advocates Sanjukta Dey and Abhished Yende, Jacob in her application filed against the state of Maharashtra and the cyber crime unit of Delhi Police has also said that “some online trolls and bots are circulating her personal information on social media” and that an entity known as Legal Rights Observatory has sought to pin the blame for the violence on January 26 on her by filing a false and baseless complaint with Delhi Police. ( TOI )