Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi held for ‘seditious’ posters sent to jail
Mumbai/New Delhi: Charged with sedition, Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was on Monday sent to jail for two weeks by a Mumbai court after police said it did not require his custody anymore two days after his arrest that has sparked an outrage.
25-year-old Twivedi himself did not apply for bail in the case until the sedition charge, for which maximum punishment is life imprisonment, was dropped, even as the Maharashtra Government sought to distance itself from the case.
He was arrested in Mumbai on Saturday under IPC Section 124 (sedition), section 66 A of Information Technology Act and section 2 of Prevention of Insults to Nation Honour Act. He was yesterday remanded in police custody till September 16.
Producing Trivedi before a Bandra Court, police said their investigations in the case were over and his custodial interrogation was not needed. The court remanded Trivedi in judicial custody till September 24.
The Kanpur-based artist has been accused of putting up banners mocking the Constitution during a rally of anti- corruption crusader Anna Hazare in Mumbai late last year and posting the same on his website.
Trivedi was arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by a member of Republican Party of India, Amit Katarnayea.
“I am not seeking bail because I am proud of whatever I did, and this I will do it repeatedly. I am not a criminal that I should deposit money and seek bail, but till the time the charges of sedition are not dropped against me, I will continue to be in jail”, said a statement in Hindi purported to be written by Trivedi in jail.
The statement was circulated outside the Court by volunteers of India Against Corruption(IAC), which organised Hazare’s rally last year. Scores of Trivedi’s supportes had gathered at the court premises.
Clad in black kurta and jeans, Trivedi was brought to the Court in the afternoon.
As the arrest sparked condemnation by some political parties and activists, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said though the Constitution ensures freedom of expression it also lays down that every citizen must respect the national symbols.
CPI(M) said it was “outrageous” that a sedition charge had been slapped with for drawing cartoons against corruption while the Congress said the arrest of Trivedi was a bit of an overstretch.
“There are certain ground rules which we all have to follow. When the Constitution ensures freedom of expression to each one of us, it also lays down that we as Indian citizens respect all national symbols which represent the Indian nation,” Ambika said.
Congress disapproved of the arreest, saying the action was a bit “over-stretched” and “not called for”.
At the same time, the party spokesperson Manish Tiwari advocated “reasonable restrictions” to freedom of speech and called for respecting the national emblems.
Terming the arrest of Trivedi a “serious criminal offence”, Press Council of India Chairman Markandey Katju said those politicians and police officials behind this should be arrested.
“Because under Section 342 of the PIC, wrongful arrest and confinement serious criminal offences? If you are arresting a person who has not committed a crime, then you are committing a crime. So, these politicians and these police officers should be arrested and made to face trial,” he said in Chennai.
BJP alleged that while the UPA government has been involved in corruption like the coal allocation scam, it has also started attacking democratic institutions and free speech.
Prashant Bhushan, lawyer and an IAC member, said sedition charge is constantly being misused by the government and that it should only be used only if someone incites violence. “By no stretch of imagination was Aseem promoting violence.”
Arvind Kejriwal, anti-graft activist and also an IAC member, said the way depictions were made in the cartoon were very wrong but this does not make for a case of sedition.
Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said his department has nothing to do with the complaint filed against Trivedi.
In Kanpur, supporters and family members of Trivedi protested outside the residence of Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, who assured them of providing all possible help to the cartoonist.
Speaking to PTI, Aseem’s father Ashok claimed that his son was innocent and that it was an irony he had been arrested on charges of sedition when his grandfather Reva Shankar Trivedi had been a freedom figher and had gone behind bars for India’s freedom struggle.