By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
NEW DELHI, India – Today, authorities in India released anti-corruption cartoonist Aseem Trivedi from Mumbai’s main jail.
Authorities arrested Mr. Trivedi on Sunday for his seditious cartoons series, one of which depicted the Parliament building as a lavatory buzzing with flies. One of Mr. Trivedi’s cartoons further illustrated three lions, India’s national symbol, replaced with three wolves whose teeth dripped blood with “Long live corruption” written underneath. Another cartoon portrayed the Parliament as an enlarged toilet bowl.
According to CNN, Mr. Trivedi initially refused bail because he wanted the charges dropped. However, after authorities reassured him that his case would be reviewed, Mr. Trivedi changed his mind and accepted a bail grant of 5,000 Indian rupees ($90) from Mumbai’s High Court.
“Can we speak freely in this country or not? Or are we still living under the British rule?” inquired Mr. Trivedi after his release and amongst hundreds of free speech activists. “This fight will continue until 124A is repealed,” continued Mr. Trivedi.
In 1860, the British colonial government introduced section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. Section 124A prohibits “words either spoken or written, or by signs or visible representation” to incite “hatred or contempt, or excited or attempts to excite disaffection,” against the government.
In 1962, the Indian Supreme Court reviewed section 124A’s constitutionality and ruled in favor of its validity. However, its application is limited to acts “involving intention or tendency to create disorder, or disturbance of law and order, or incitement to violence.”
Mr. Trivedi’s arrest was one of many against free speech activists. Tuesday, India Against Corruption (IAC) member Arvind Kejiwal threatened to sit outside the jail holding Mr. Trivedi if the charges against him were not dropped.
Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh temporarily blocked access to a number of Twitter accounts, including those of which impersonated the Prime Minister. Furthermore, the government chastised articles by foreign media censuring Mr. Singh’s record against corruption.
Moreover, in April, authorities arrested Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra in Kolkata for purportedly sharing via email cartoons disparaging the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee. Authorities later released Mr. Mahapatra.
According the BBC, the government rebutted that they are in favor in speech but “there is a thin line between that and insulting national symbol.”
For further information, please see:
BBC – India cartoonist Aseem Trivedi freed from jail on bail – 12 Sept. 2012
CNN – Indian cartoonists facing sedition charges freed on bail – 12 Sept. 2012
Hindustan Times – Aseem Trivedi freed; Advani says current time worse than emergency – 12 Sept. 2012
Reuters – Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi freed on bail – 12 Sept. 2012