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Mumbai Police to give up Aseem Trivedi's custody

Sep 10, 2012 01:15 PM IST India India

Mumbai: After country-wide outrage and severe criticism for the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, Mumbai Police decided to give up his custody on Monday. Trivedi was sent to police custody till September 16 on Sunday.

Trivedi's friend and India Against Corruption (IAC) member Mayank Gandhi met Trivedi on Monday and was told by the police officers that they would give up his custody soon.

Earlier, Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said there were no grounds for the police to take Trivedi into custody. "The police investigation was complete. There was no need to seek police custody. I am looking into the matter. We will say so in court," Patil said.

Aseem was arrested on 'sedition' charges for allegedly posting 'ugly and obscene' content on his web portal.

Press Council Chairman Jsutice Markandey Katju had in fact called the police action criminal. "Politicians must learn to be tolerant. It's not dictatorship. Cartoons criticising politicians are often published. It's a criminal offence to wrongfully arrest the cartoonist. The policemen who've done that must be arrested instead.

IAC also demanded Aseem's release. "IAC demands that Aseem Trivedi be unconditionally released and all charges against him, including the baseless charge of sedition be withdrawn instantly," an IAC statement said.

"IAC firmly stands for freedom of expression and expresses its anguish against a growing culture of intolerance for creative expression in the public domain," IAC said in the statement.

Aseem's parents, Pratibha and Ashok Trivedi, claim he's being targetted for being an India Against Corruption activist. "Why should the government arrest our son, a cartoonist when there are so many corrupt leaders roaming around freely? His cartoon was only helping draw attention to corruption," said Aseem's father Ashok Trivedi.

"Our son has done nothing wrong. I am proud of my son. Corrupt leaders must be behind bars, not my son. His act cannot be called unpatriotic," his mother Pratibha Trivedi said.

Cartoonist Mangesh Tendulkar said, "When there's such a kind of curb on any cartoon, the authority should think twice, because even though it is a little aggressive, this is the most essential thing in democracy."

Kanpur based cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested for allegedly posting seditious content on his website. He was arrested on Saturday on the basis of a complaint filed in December and produced before a court in Bandra which remanded him to police custody till September 16.

Police had sought his custody to question him on the contents on his website and other charges. The court had issued a non-bailable warrant against him last month. A member of Repubican Party of India, Amit Katarnayea, had filed a complaint against Trivedi that the latter had put up banners mocking the Indian constitution during the Anna Hazare rally held last year at the Bandra Kurla Complex. It was also alleged that he had put the obscene content on his website.

Outside the court, a defiant Trivedi said, "If telling the truth makes me traitor then I am one. Even Mahatma Gandhi was called traitor and if I am booked under sedition for doing service to the nation then I will continue to do so."

While police officers said that he had shown disrespect to the National flag and he was arrested under 124A of the Indian Penal Code for sedition besides various sections of the Information Technology Act.

Trivedi was due to fly to Syria on Wednesday to receive a cartooning award.

"If anyone is talking against corruption, proclaiming it as anti-national and slamming charges of sedition, one needs to understand that this is against the government and not against the country," said Mayank Gandhi, a member of IAC.

He said further said that Trivedi was not a member of the IAC "but is fighting corruption and we are here to give him moral support".

Big Questions:

- Is it probable that as the Maharashtra Home Minister, RR Patil didn't know about police's action?

- Is RR Patil passing the blame on police after drawing flak?

- Is the sedition law being blatantly misused by the government?

- Is it time the British-era sedition law be changed?

- Has sedition law been repeatedly misused by governments across party lines?

(With additional information from PTI)