By Ganesh N | ENS – MUMBAI 15th September 2012 09:22 AM

Censuring the decision of the state, police and lower court to book cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on sedition charges, the Bombay High Court said that it would frame guidelines for the application of sedition charges.

A Division Bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Amjad Sayyed said the guidelines would prevent the police and the courts from invoking the provision of sedition on ‘arbitrary’ and ‘frivolous’ grounds as in the case of Trivedi. “If there are no parameters, there will be serious encroachment of a person’s liberties guaranteed to him in a civil society,” the Bench observed.

The guidelines announced by the court would be significant as the outdated law has been going unchallenged since Independence. In a PIL filed by advocate Sanskar Marathe, the court held that the law regarding sedition was a pre-Independence provision, when the British government wanted protection from the citizens. The Bench said that it would lay parameters for the police and courts before booking someone on sedition charges.

The court was markedly peeved by the way the state government, police and the lower court handled the Trivedi case. Without mincing words, the Bench said; “How can you arrest people on frivolous grounds? You arrest a cartoonist and breach his liberty of freedom of speech and expression. Today you attacked a cartoonist, tomorrow you will attack a film maker and then a writer. We live in a free society and everyone has freedom of speech and expression.”

Praising Trivedi’s courage to raise his voice against the ‘arbitrary’ prosecution, the court wondered if there were more cases similar to this where the arrested persons have not made their plight known as their voices were suppressed by the police. The court has now asked the police to file a detailed affidavit by October 12 on the cases pending under sedition charges.

The state counsel informed the court that the police commissioner was in discussion with the Law and Judiciary Department to explore if sedition charges against Trivedi could be withdrawn. Meanwhile, another FIR was lodged by a social activist against Trivedi with the Beed police under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. Trivedi is likely to be arrested in this case too.