Kerala High Court on Thursday granted a week’s interim anticipatory bail to Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sultana, who is facing a sedition case for referring to a “bioweapon” while speaking about the Covid outbreak in the archipelago.
Justice Ashok Menon ordered her to appear before Kavaratti police for interrogation on Sunday but granted protection from being taken into custody.
“The court ordered that she should be released on bail against two sureties of Rs 50,000 each in the event of an arrest. She has been ordered to cooperate with the investigation and subject herself to interrogation,” senior lawyer P. Vijayabhanu, who appeared for Aisha, told The Telegraph.
The court reserved its order on the anticipatory bail plea of the filmmaker, who was booked under IPC Section 124A (sedition) and 153B (assertions against national integration).
Participating in a TV debate, Aisha had said a “bioweapon” had been unleashed on the islanders, referring to the Covid outbreak in Lakshadweep after restrictions were eased by administrator Praful Khoda Patel.
The complainant, Lakshadweep BJP president C. Abdul Khader Haji, has claimed that Aisha had referred to the central government while mentioning the “bioweapon”. Aisha has said she had meant Patel and his decision to lift the standard operating procedures that had helped Lakshadweep keep the coronavirus at bay for a year.
In his arguments in court, Vijayabhanu pointed out that the “bioweapon” remark had been “made in the heat of the moment”.
“I had argued that it was much ado about nothing and the comment was made in the heat of the moment since she was not aware of the implications. She had also apologised for the remark,” Vijayabhanu said.
Senior counsel S. Manu, the standing counsel of Lakshadweep, had opposed the anticipatory bail plea on the ground that the remarks could create disaffection among the islanders against the central government.
But Vijayabhanu pointed out that there was no incitement to violence, and referred to Supreme Court cases including the quashing of sedition charges against senior journalist Vinod Dua.