Mumbai, Sept. 10: Arrested cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was sent from police custody to two weeks’ judicial custody today after Mumbai police did a U-turn and said the investigation was complete.
Just 24 hours ago, the police had moved court on a Sunday and obtained custody of the 25-year-old from Kanpur for a week.
They produced him in court again today after Maharashtra home minister R.R. Patil of the NCP said the government was not behind the complaint against Trivedi and would be seeking his release. In Delhi, ruling ally Congress dubbed the arrest an “overreaction”.
The custody switch means the India Against Corruption activist can apply for bail, but his lawyer Vijay Hiremath said Trivedi would do that “only when the charges of sedition against him are dropped”.
A Republican Party of India activist had filed a complaint accusing Trivedi of putting up banners mocking the Constitution at Anna Hazare’s fast in Mumbai last December, and of posting “objectionable” cartoons on his blog.
The police filed an FIR under the Information Technology Act and Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, but courted controversy by adding the charge of sedition, which carries life imprisonment. “This is not a case of sedition,” Hiremath said.
PTI quoted Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari as saying in Delhi: “I have no hesitation in saying that the arrest is a bit too far over-stretched.... Overreaction is certainly not called for.... We are not in favour of arrest.”
The police said they had received no instructions to drop the sedition charge. “The power to withdraw the charges lies only with the government,” spokesperson Nisar Tamboli said.