Senior lawyers have termed the sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi “ridiculous” and demanded that the charges be dropped immediately, even as the Mumbai Police said that there was no question of doing so.
“Nobody has the power to withdraw charges in a case, except the State government. So there is no question of [the Mumbai Police] dropping sedition charges against him,” a senior police officer told The Hindu.
Calling for Mr. Trivedi’s immediate release, senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani told The Hindu: “He should not have been arrested in the first place. No charges should have been slapped against him. I think this has been misconceived completely. I have seen the cartoons. I don’t think they are seditious. I see no criminality in them.”
He said, “People may think that the cartoons are not in a good taste. But our sensitivities should not be so brutal. He has commented on the people occupying our institutions and what they have reduced the institutions to. I don’t think there is any intent to criticise the institution.”
Senior lawyer and activist Mihir Desai said the charges, which he labelled “ridiculous and mala fide,” were brought against the artist to “divert people’s attention from important issues.”
“What he has done is a satire. You cannot prosecute satire on the grounds that it insults national emblems. There is no chance that the sedition charges against him will be found true. What he has done is not sedition. We are ultimately talking about cartoons. I think the police are taking the issue too far,” he said.
Mr. Desai also questioned the police action of seeking the cartoonist’s judicial custody on Monday. “Why do they need his custody? What is it that they want to investigate now? He has already admitted that he has drawn the cartoons. He is a known person. What investigation is remaining?”
Senior lawyer Amit Desai observed that the police needed to apply their mind before framing charges that impinged on the personal liberties and rights of individuals.
He said: “The police are not applying their mind. They should immediately withdraw the charges against him not because of public outrage but because they should realise on their own that the charges are not made out.
“These charges are ridiculous. They are not justified at all. The cartoons might be offensive. Some may find it insulting, but they are definitely not seditious. The police should be more sensitive while dealing with people’s rights.”