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The saga about the cartoonist – the High Court intervenes




For some time now, there has been a lot of discourse about cartoons and their perspective within the Indian space. So, some time back, there was a huge uproar over a cartoon, many decades old, and accepted by the political leaders of newly independent India, which was not accepted any more by the current leaders of India, and decided to be removed from the text books of modern India. This was the cartoon that talked about Nehru applying pressure on Ambedkar to speed up the process of creating a constitution. There were some voices of reason, but the political class moves like a herd, and hence the cartoon was removed. In the same space, politicians also decided that other cartoons that were critical of politicians could also be removed and the education ministry accepted this; so only sanitized cartoons would now be allowed, those that mock fun at people outside India, since mocking fun at people inside India will hurt somebody or the other.
But the recent developments are far worse. A lot of us accept that the amount of corruption in India is incredible, that the political class is almost eating the country and subverting many of the institutions. So, when somebody protests, these protests can take many different shapes. There is a cartoonist who does not make light satire, he make hard hitting cartoons that show the current political class and Government class devouring the country. A number of citizens of the country would agree with him, although one can understand why the political class would not agree. But, to accuse him of sedition, of acting in a way that would encourage people to go against the concept that is India seems totally ridiculous. And yet that is what the police, directed the political apparatus in Maharashtra, did. They arrested him, accused him of sedition, and a local court agreed and sent him off to custody. The Congress spun itself in knots trying to justify the accusation and action against him, but found it difficult to do so.

It was only a national outrage that forced the police to backtrack and withdraw their case and for him to get bail (but one thinks of others who might be caught by the police but do not have the media attention required to get out of the police grip). One wonders whether the courts will be able to strike a blow for freedom, for the right of free expression ? It will require effort to go against the force of the Government, but for now, the actions of the High Court do provide some relief to people interested in the rule of law (link to article):

Dubbing the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on the charge of sedition as “arbitrary” and on “frivolous” grounds, the Bombay High Court today said it breached his freedom of speech and expression.
The court also said it intended to lay down guidelines for application of the pre-Independence law to ensure that liberties guaranteed to citizens in a civil society are not encroached.
“How can you (police) arrest people on frivolous grounds? You arrest a cartoonist and breach his liberty of freedom of speech and expression,” a division bench of justices D Y Chandrachud and Amjad Sayyed said, voicing strong displeasure over the arrest of Kanpur-based cartoonist whom it had granted bail two days back.




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