Kerala High Court observes that prima facie sedition case against Aisha Sultana does not stand

Aisha Sultana     | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Observing that prima facie the offences, including the sedition charge, alleged against Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sultana are not attracted, the Kerala High Court on Friday made absolute the interim anticipatory bail granted to her in a case registered against her by the Kavaratti police for making a remark against the Central government.

A case under Sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) has been registered against Ms. Sultana, a native of Chetlat island, based on a petition filed by BJP’s Lakshadweep unit president Abdul Khader. The prosecution case is that that on June 7, during a TV channel discussion, she had allegedly stated that the Centre had used ‘bio-weapon’ against the natives of the islands.

Justice Ashok Menon, while allowing her anticipatory bail petition, observed that prima facie the petitioner “did not have a malicious motive to subvert the government established by law by merely using the strong word 'bio-weapon', to express her vehemence in disapproval of the subject under discussion. Her intention was explicitly in criticism of the modification of the SOP, introduced by the Administrator, forgoing the mandatory provision of subjecting the persons entering the islands to quarantine. This allegedly led to an exponential rise in the number of COVID-19 cases on the islands. The decisive ingredient for establishing the offence of sedition under section 124 A of IPC is the doing of certain acts which would bring the government established by law in India into hatred or contempt etc. In this case, there was not even a suggestion that the petitioner did anything as such against the Government of India.”

The court further observed the petitioner had "opposed the newly introduced reforms by the Administrator and had sworn allegiance to the people of Lakshadweep in their protest against the reforms. There is no apparent indication in her statement, which amounts to imputations or assertions prejudicial to the national interest, nor does it propagate any class of persons against another group of persons. It is therefore doubtful whether the penal provisions of section 153 B would be attracted in this case"

No criminal antecedents

The court also pointed out that the petitioner had no criminal antecedents and she was not likely to flee from justice. The petitioner had also expressed her regret about the use of the word "bio-weapon".

The court said that custodial interrogation and her incarceration in prison, particularly in these pandemic times, might not be required. Nor had the prosecution expressed its intention to subject the applicant to custodial interrogation. There was no evidence that could be tampered with or witnesses to be influenced or intimidated. Besides, consequent to the grant of interim anticipatory bail, she was directed to appear before the investigating officer for interrogation and there was no report that she had not complied with that direction of the court.

The court ordered that if she is arrested in the case, she be released on bail on her executing a bond for ₹50,000 with two solvent sureties each to the satisfaction of the arresting officer.

P. Vijayabhanu, senior counsel for the petitioner, had submitted that she had made the statement during a heated discussion and she did not know the implications of her statement. When she realised her mistake, she had tendered an apology for making the remarks. In fact, she was willing to cooperate with the police investigation.

The Kavaratti police had let her off after being questioned in the case the other day.

Phone seized

Akbar Kareem, Ms. Sultana's lawyer, told The Hindu that the Lakshadweep police on Friday afternoon seized her mobile phone for the purpose of sending it for forensic examination. The action came in the wake of the Kerala High Court granting bail to her in a case of sedition registered against her, he said.

In a video message, Ms. Sultana said she was not allowed to note down important contact details before the mobile phone was seized by the police. “That the phone was seized all of a sudden on the day the court granted me bail has come as a shock. I don't know how will I call my mother. Two of my uncles are hospitalised at two places and I am unable to contact them either,” she said.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 9:52:25 AM |

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