Cartoonist Trivedi gets bail, refuses to be freed till charges dropped (Second Lead)

September 11th, 2012 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Anna Hazare Mumbai, Sep 11 (IANS) In a setback to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court granted bail to jailed cartoonist Aseem Trivedi here late Tuesday. However, he refused to be freed till the sedition charges against him were dropped, an activist said.

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar granted the bail, following a public interest litigation filed by lawyer Sanskar Marathe.

According to India Against Corruption (IAC) activist Preeti Menon, the bail was granted at a sum of Rs.5,000.

However, Trivedi has declined to be released until the sedition charge, slapped by Mumbai Police on him, is withdrawn, said IAC’s Mayank Gandhi, adding that efforts were on to persuade him.

The development came barely hours after Home Minister R.R. Patil said that police and state law department’s opinions would be sought on the charge of sedition against Trivedi.

“After getting the details, we shall decide on withdrawing the sedition charge on the cartoonist,” Patil told media persons, sticking to the government stand on the issue.

He also met and assured a delegation of IAC activists that the government was in the process of expediting Trivedi’s release.

Trivedi was arrested last Saturday by Mumbai Police which charged him, among other things, with sedition for insulting national emblems and the Constitution during the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare here December 2011.

The Mumbai Police’s action created outrage in media and public circles with all-round condemnation from various quarters in India and abroad.

IAC leader Arvind Kejriwal arrived here from New Delhi and visited Trivedi in the high-security Arthur Road Central Jail where Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab, who is awaiting the noose, is lodged.

Issuing an ultimatum to the state government, Kejriwal threatened to sit on a protest outside the prison if all charges against Trivedi were not dropped by Friday.

“Either you release Aseem or arrest us. Aseem had fought in support of Lokpal and against corruption but he has been described as a traitor. However those stealing coal are termed as patriots. This will not be tolerated by the countrymen,” he told media persons this evening.

More support came in for Trivedi.

Throwing their weight behind the cartoonist, Bollywood personality Mahesh Bhatt, along with Gandhi and Mumbai Press Club chief Gurbir Singh demanded that the section of sedition should be deleted from the Indian Penal Code.

Challenging the government to lodge sedition cases against them, the trio displayed copies of Trivedi’s alleged seditious cartoons.

Justice (retd) Hosbet Suresh also said that the sedition law is a British act which is “outdated and must be scrapped”. Comparing it to another former draconian law TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, he said that the sedition law has been scrapped even in Britain but retained in India.

Gandhi also said that they would request Trivedi to accept the bail granted by the Bombay High Court and fight for the bigger cause to “abolish sedition.”

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray also lashed out at the government for booking Trivedi under sedition laws while the real traitors were out in the open.

Under intense pressure since the past three days, the Mumbai Police attempted to wriggle out of the situation by completing Trivedi’s interrogation and producing him before a Mumbai court, barely 24 hours after he was sent to seven days’ police custody last Sunday.

Trivedi was Monday sent to judicial custody till Sep. 24.

A writ petition filed by Marathe, contending that the sedition charge against Trivedi was illegal and he should be released forthwith Tuesday came up before the division bench which granted bail to the cartoonist.

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