Aseem won’t seek bail till sedition charge is dropped

Policemen escort cartoonist Aseem Trivedi to a court in Mumbai on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Rafiq Maqbool

Award-winning political cartoonist and anti-corruption and Internet freedom crusader Aseem Trivedi on Monday said he would not apply for bail till police dropped the sedition charge against him.

Mr. Trivedi, 25, remanded in police custody for seven days on Sunday, was later sent in judicial custody till September 24, after police moved the magistrate’s court on Monday, saying the probe had been over.

In a statement, which he wrote in the lock-up , Mr. Trivedi said: “I am not seeking bail because I have not done anything wrong. I will do this again and again. I am not an accused [so] that I should pay a sum and seek bail. Till a draconian Section like 124 A [of the Indian Penal Code, relating to sedition], belonging to the British Raj, is repealed, I will continue my agitation against it and against censorship from the jail itself.”

I've full faith in Constitution: Trivedi

In a statement he wrote in the police lock-up and copies of which were made available to the media by his friend Alok Dixit, the Kanpur-based Mr. Trivedi also affirmed his loyalty to the Constitution, the very same document he has been accused of insulting.

“My full faith rests in the Indian Constitution and its maker Dr. Ambedkar. Therefore, I cannot bear to see the Constitution being insulted and I want to stop this from happening through my cartoons… Through my work, I oppose any insult to the Constitution,” he said.

Citing the examples of Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad, Mr. Trivedi said that if raising one’s voice against injustice was anti-nationalism, then he was an anti-nationalist. “Art and literature mirror society. I have depicted in my cartoons what I have seen all around me.”

Probe over

In a surprise turn of events, the Mumbai Police, who secured the cartoonist’s custody for seven days on Sunday, told the magistrate’s court on Monday that the probe had been completed.

“The accused has been interrogated. He disposed of his posters at the venue [of Anna Hazare’s agitation], the MMRDA [Metropolitan Region Development Authority] grounds. So these cannot be recovered. We have retrieved material from Facebook and his website. Our investigation is complete,” the police said in their remand application. They told the court that they did not require his custody any further.

So the magistrate remanded him in judicial custody, noting: “In such circumstances it’s not just and proper to keep the accused in police custody without any sufficient ground.”

Additional Commissioner of Police (West Region) Vishwas Nangre Patil told The Hindu that the police could not summarily drop the sedition charge, but indicated the possibility of a rethink at the time of filing of the charge sheet.

“There has to be a qualitative analysis of the charges. They were applied after due consultation with the prosecutor. When we file the charge sheet, what Section is to be included, there can be a rethink on that. But now, we cannot say whether we can drop the charge,” he said.

Since Mr. Trivedi had admitted to drawing the cartoons and the police had downloaded material, “there was no question of getting any additional evidence…”

The police would file a charge sheet as early as possible.

Nationwide outrage

Mr. Trivedi’s arrest has sparked nationwide outrage.

On Monday, a large number of supporters, especially those of the India Against Corruption, gathered on the Bandra court premises.

The crowed cheered the cartoonist as he was being taken away in a police van. Carrying the national flag and placards in his support, IAC volunteers raised slogans Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai. The police tried to barricade the crowd from entering the court building, and later following Mr. Trivedi.

IAC coordinator Mayank Gandhi told The Hindu that the campaign would back Mr. Trivedi only in respect of the sedition charge. “We feel sedition is too much. It attracts life imprisonment. It is meant for anti-nationals, whereas here is a nationalist.”

Apart from sedition, Mr. Trivedi has been booked under Section 2 of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act, 1971, dealing with insult to the national flag and the Constitution, and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act (“information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character”).

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 12:42:01 PM |

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