Gautam Bhatia - Safoora Zargar and Disha Ravi: Similar cases, (same judge), vastly different verdicts
The order granting bail to environmental activist Disha Ravi in a sedition case is remarkable not so much because of its outcome, but because of the short shrift that it gives to the state’s hysterical accusations of conspiracy-by-Google-Docs. In ordinary circumstances, this would not be remarkable either – judicial scepticism towards the state’s claims of far-reaching conspiracies to justify keeping people in jail, when there exists no evidence linking them to actual violence, should be par for the course. However, that has conspicuously not been the case in recent times, at all levels of the judiciary.
Consequently, what makes the bail order remarkable is how (sadly) uncharacteristic it is. Indeed, the order stands in stark contrast to the order of June 4, 2020, that denied bail to Safoora Zargar, in what have come to be known as “the Delhi Riots cases.” A comparison between the two, therefore, merits scrutiny.
In the aftermath of Disha Ravi’s bail, it did not escape public attention that both orders were handed down by the same judge. It is important to clarify, however, that the purpose of this post is not to serve up some kind of a gotcha! conclusion, or point to judicial hypocrisy. As all human beings, judges themselves evolve over time and reflect on their own judgments and orders, and one can hope – in light of Tuesday’s order – that future cases before the same judge would follow his more recent convictions on liberty, free expression, and scepticism of state power, rather than his older ones….