Mumbai, Sept. 11: Bombay High Court granted bail to Aseem Trivedi today on a PIL filed by an independent party, but the jailed cartoonist refused to accept the relief till his friends brought him round late at night.
The 25-year-old India Against Corruption (IAC) supporter kept insisting he would not seek or accept bail till the sedition law, applied against him, was repealed. He eventually relented “to respect the views of” the high court, the IAC said.
Trivedi is expected to sign a bail bond for Rs 5,000 tomorrow, as directed by the high court, and walk out of jail.
Earlier, the state government had vacillated through the day — apparently with the ruling allies pulling in different directions — before eventually refusing to withdraw the sedition charges.
Lawyer Sanskar Marathe, who filed the PIL, argued against the sedition charge on Trivedi and claimed his arrest was “illegal, bad in law and unjustified”. The court did not comment on the charges framed but said Trivedi could be granted bail.
“If drawing cartoons was the only allegation against him, his custody was not required,” the division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar said.
Trivedi had been arrested on Saturday after a Republican Party of India activist accused him of mocking the Constitution and posting “objectionable” cartoons on his blog.
He was shifted from police custody to jail yesterday, and friends began trying to convince him he should seek bail if the sedition charge was dropped. Trivedi has also been booked under the IT Act and Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act.
This morning, home minister R.R. Patil of the NCP told reporters he “may take the sedition charge back”. An NCP leader later explained: “The Congress has a problem with the IAC but why should we bear their cross?”
But the Congress prevailed. “No decision has been taken,” Patil declared at 6pm. “We are seeking legal opinion.”
The day’s drama was complete with the Kanpur-based Trivedi finding an unlikely backer in Raj Thackeray, scourge of north Indian migrants. Raj, though, has been a cartoonist like his uncle Bal Thackeray.
“If you don’t understand cartoons, you should not press such serious charges against cartoonists,” Raj said.