The Maharashtra government on Friday told the Bombay High Court that it has decided to revoke the charge of sedition invoked against Kanpur-based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, whose arrest sparked widespread outrage.
“Pursuant to legal opinion, it has been decided to drop the invocation of Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code,” the affidavit filed by the government before the court said.
No case under 124 A
Advocate General Darius Khambata told a Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N.M. Jamdar that no case was made out against Mr. Trivedi under 124 A. He said the section had narrow applicability and had to be invoked only if there was incitement to overthrow the government
The State said the High Court, in its earlier order, had noted that 124 A “is circumscribed by strict parameters and the government of Maharashtra is in the process of considering whether such invocation was justified.”
Mr. Khambata told the court that the government was formulating a circular on guidelines for invoking the sedition section. The circular would be issued to all police stations. A draft of it would be submitted to the court on October 19.
As regards the other charges against Mr. Trivedi, namely Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act, the government affidavit said three of the seven cartoons would be “dealt with in accordance with law.”
Chief Justice Mohit Shah remarked that sedition was never invoked against those in power or in the Opposition. It was usually invoked against people from outside.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by lawyer Sanskar Marathe.
In the earlier hearing, the court had ordered Mr. Trivedi’s release on bail.
‘Quash all charges’
Welcoming the State’s stand, Mr. Trivedi’s friend Alok Dixit said now the government must quash all charges against the cartoonist, who is currently participating in the reality TV show ‘Bigg Boss.’
“Despite so much public support if all the charges are not quashed, then an artist will not feel that he or she is existing in a democratic society. In this Internet era, where so many people are articulating political developments on social networking sites, governments should be encouraging rather than suppressing their voices,” Mr. Dixit told The Hindu.