The police on Monday questioned a cartoonist on charges of sedition over a series of cartoons which lampooned the government's corruption record, including one that depicted parliament as a giant toilet bowl.
The arrest of Aseem Trivedi, a freelance artist, triggered widespread condemnation from media and anti-graft activists who said it was evidence of a lack of respect for freedom of expression.
"If telling the truth makes me a traitor then I am one," Trivedi said outside the court where he was remanded in police custody late Sunday after a private complaint from a Mumbai-based lawyer.
"If I am booked under sedition for doing service to the nation then I will continue to do so." A local court in Mumbai ordered him to be held in police custody until September 16 for other offences under sedition and information technology laws.
The government has recently been criticised for blocking Internet content in an attempt to calm ethnic tensions in Bangalore and other cities. Some Twitter accounts that ridiculed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were also blocked in the crackdown.
A similar row over censorship blew up last year when communications minister Kapil Sibal held meetings with Facebook, Google and other IT giants over obscene images that risked offending Muslims or defamed politicians.
Markandey Katju, chairman of the Press Council of India and former Supreme Court judge, defended Trivedi, who was also accused of displaying the contentious cartoons at an anti-corruption rally last year.
"My opinion is that the cartoonist did nothing illegal," Katju said in a statement. "In a democracy many things are said, some truthful and others false."
Aseem's cartoons included one image of the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks urinating on the Indian constitution, while one showed parliament as a giant toilet bowl.
Another cartoon was titled "Gang Rape of Mother India", and one depicting the national emblem of India replaced lions with wolves with blood dripping from their mouths.
Instead of arresting Aseem Trivedi, the Government should make some self-arrests of some of the cartoons running this country...— SUHEL SETH (@suhelseth) September 9, 2012
If Aseem trivedi is arrested for insulting parliament then those politicians who caught each others collar recently in par.shd be arrested.— Ashoke Pandit (@ashokepandit) September 10, 2012
I condemn the arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi by Mumbai Police for making cartoons to depict corruption in the country..— ashutosh (@ashutoshibn7) September 9, 2012
Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi arrested for sedition for "insulting the national emblem". Yes, yes. Screw the nation. Cherish the symbols.— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) September 9, 2012
Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi makes "cartoons against corruption" and is arrested for sedition. Never knew corruption was so dear to our state.— Faking News (@fakingnews) September 9, 2012
before i see 'this webpage is not available' again: aseem trivedi ki giraftari sarasar galat hai. usko turant riha kiya jana chahiye.— dibang (@dibang) September 9, 2012