Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, in custody on sedition charges, agreed to accept bail late on Tuesday night after Maharashtra Home Minster R.R. Patil’s assurance that he would examine the case against him, and also respecting the views of the Bombay High Court, according to a statement by India Against Corruption (IAC) spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon.
Mr. Trivedi will be released from the Arthur Road Jail on Wednesday.
Earlier, he had refused to accept bail granted by the High Court till the charges of sedition were dropped.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N.M. Jamdar passed the interim order on a public interest litigation petition.
“In the facts and circumstances of the case, by this ad-interim order, we direct that Mr. Aseem Trivedi be released on bail on his executing a personal bond for a sum of Rs. 5,000,” the order said.
The plea sought Mr. Trivedi’s unconditional release and the quashing of the charge of sedition as “unjustified.”
It also called upon the court to declare his arrest and detention “illegal and bad in law.”
The court will hear arguments on the plea on Friday. Additional Public Prosecutor Poornima Kantharia told the court that she awaited instructions from the police and the State.
However, the officials concerned were in a meeting with the Chief Minister. She argued that Mr. Trivedi had the option of moving bail in the magistrate court, which he refused to exercise.
However, even as it posted the matter to Friday, the court passed the interim order of release.
Kejriwal warns of agitation
Earlier in the day, IAC member Arvind Kejriwal warned of an agitation before the Arthur Road jail, if the charge of sedition was not dropped by Friday.
Mr. Kejriwal met the Kanpur-based cartoonist in the jail on Tuesday morning along with other members of IAC.
“[By] Friday, the charge of sedition against him should be dropped. Else, we will sit right here outside the jail itself in protest. It is the MPs who disrespect the national emblems by indulging in corruption. It is they who should be booked for sedition,” Mr. Kejriwal said after meeting the cartoonist.
Mr. Trivedi’s friend Alok Dixit, who went inside the prison with Mr. Kejriwal, said the cartoonist stood firm on his stand.
Mumbai Special Correspondent writes:
Mr. Dixit told The Hindu that the option of applying for bail was there earlier too.
However, the fight is mainly against the sedition charges and Mr. Trivedi was firm that he would remain in jail till the State or Central governments gave an assurance that they will be dropped.
Mr. Dixit, IAC members Preeti Sharma Menon and Mayank Gandhi, and Gurbir Singh, president of the Mumbai Press Club, had met the Maharashtra Home Minister and asked him to drop the sedition charges.
Mr. Dixit said Mr. Trivedi was also aware that Press Council of India chairperson Markandey Katju and others had said that it was a wrongful arrest under sedition charges. While the High Court has granted moral relief, Mr. Dixit said, it was up to Mr. Trivedi to accept bail or not.
Sedition charge outrageous: CPI(M)
New Delhi Special Correspondent writes:
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) condemned the arrest of Mr. Trivedi for drawing cartoons and publishing them as part of an anti-corruption campaign.
“It is outrageous that he has been charged with sedition,” the Polit Bureau said in a statement, while demanding his immediate release and withdrawal of the charges.
“There is an urgent need to review the sedition clause in the Indian Penal Code, which is now being misused frequently.”