Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s arrest is a curb on a citizen’s freedom of expression and charging him with sedition is outrageous, lawyers said on Sunday, even as a court remanded him in police custody for a week.
The 24-year-old cartoonist was arrested on Saturday for displaying allegedly insulting caricatures of Parliament, Constitution and the national emblem at an India Against Corruption (IAC) protest at the MMRDA grounds last December and for posting them on a social networking site.
“Trivedi is not dishonouring anything, he is expressing his ideologies and viewpoints through his cartoons. Only people of low intellect don’t understand that. His arrest is a complete curb on freedom of expression,” Mahesh Jethmalani, criminal lawyer, said.
A cartoonist’s work involves humour, satire and exaggeration and it has to be taken sportingly, said Majjid Memon, another well-known criminal lawyer. “If a cartoonist’s work is found to be inflammatory, he should be warned instead of being charged with sedition, which curtails a person’s freedom of expression,” he said. “If his work is creating damage, his arrest might be justified. But in this case, it is not.”
YP Singh, former IPS officer and now a lawyer, said: “The police could have made a debatable case under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, but charging him for sedition is baseless.”
As per Supreme Court guidelines, in such cases a person should not be arrested, said Singh. “Trivedi’s arrest on a weekend seems like an act of mischief.
Trivedi was arrested after a lawyer, Amit Arvind Katarnavre, filed a complaint in January. He has been charged under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and Information Technology Act.
Preeti Sharma Menon, an IAC volunteer, said: “After the order, when Aseem tried to address the media, the police roughed him up and pushed him into the van. We are shocked at the way an artiste and an activist is being treated.”