Cartoonist: HC raps govt, seeks affidavit
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The Bombay High Court on Friday came down heavily on the Maharashtra government and said someone will have to take responsibility for mindlessly booking 25-year-old cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for sedition. It asked the state to file a detailed affidavit stating its reasons for pressing the serious charge.
Observing that Trivedi's arrest was prima facie "arbitrary", a Division Bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Amjad Sayyed said, "How can you (police) arrest people on frivolous grounds? You arrest a cartoonist and breach his liberty of freedom of speech and expression." The court further said, "Today you attacked a cartoonist, tomorrow you will attack a filmmaker and then a writer. We live in a free society and everyone has the freedom of speech and expression."
The HC was hearing a PIL filed by lawyer Sanskar Marathe in which it had earlier this week ordered Trivedi's release from Arthur Road Jail. The court said the charge of sedition was a pre-independence provision that the then government used to protect itself. The court said it intends to lay down certain parameters for application of the sedition charge under Section 124 of the IPC.
"If there are no parameters, there will be serious encroachment of a person's liberties guaranteed to him in a civil society," it said.
Pulling up the state government, the court asked, "What is the government's stand now? Does it intend to drop the charge? Someone has to take political responsibility for this. Why did the police not apply its mind before arresting him on sedition charge?"
Additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik told the court that the Assistant Commissioner of Police probing the case was in a meeting with the law and judiciary department to ascertain the maintainability of sedition charge against the cartoonist. The court has asked the state government to file its affidavit by October 12.
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