Swati Deshpande,TNN | Mar 17, 2015, 09.22 PM IST
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MUMBAI: The Bombay high court found no wit in his cartoons but thankfully for him and the rest of free speech advocates, neither did it think they amounted to being seditious, a charge slapped on Aseem Trivedi by the government.
Disposing of a Public interest litigation filed after Trivedi’s arrest in 2012, the HC however also asked the state government which had then issued guidelines to ensure that only deserving cases get lodged under the serious charges of sedition, to circulate the guidelines to all departments.
“After having seen the seven cartoons drawn by Aseem Trivedi we find it difficult to find any wit or humour in it. The cartoons which were part of the movement initiated by Anna Hazare had no element of wit or humour in it. It only displayed anger and disgust. But that does not mean that it attracts sedition charges as it did not invoke violence,” said a bench headed by the Chief Justice Mohit Shah on Tuesday.
The HC held that witty and humorous sketches or caricatures against government do not attract sedition charges. Mere criticism of a government in power cannot be grounds to attract the charge unless the writing or caricatures incite violence or causes public disorder.
The HC emphasized on the “clear and present danger” aspect of the outfall of such cartoons. In the case of the Kanpur-based Aseem’s cartoons there was no resulting violence or outbreak of public disorder immediately.
“Citizens have the right to say or write anything criticizing the government and its measures as far as it does not incite violence or create problems in law and order,” the bench said.
The HC order was on a petition filed by an advocate Sanskar Marathe who moved the court in 2012 after Triverdi was arrested on charges of sedition. The charges were invoked for the cartoons that depicted the national emblem and the Parliament in alleged poor light the government said. The police arrested Trivedi on September 8, 2012. People of India responded with shock at the high handed arrest. He was released on bail later that year. The HC granted him bail and had slammed the cops for their “non application of mind”. Trivdei’s lawyer Mihir Desai said the case against him was “frivolous” and clearly lacked any merit whatsoever.
The HC observed that the cartoons were drawn during the anti-corruption movement started by activist Anna Hazare.
The Maharashtra government had come up with a draft circular for all police stations on how to handle sedition cases. The guidelines entails that only a senior level officer can authorise registration of an FIR with reasons to be given said advocate general Sunil Manohar who argued the matter a month ago when it was reheard. The guidelines were brought in after the PIL was filed said advocate.