Relief for Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi as Bombay HC rules Citizen’s fair Criticism about Govt. or its measures will not amount to Sedition [Read the judgment]

Relief for Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi as Bombay HC rules Citizen’s fair Criticism about Govt. or its measures will not amount to Sedition [Read the judgment]

Hearing a criminal PIL relating to arrest of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and application of charges relating to sedition provided in the Indian Penal Code against him, the Bombay High Court today said, “it is clear that the provisions of section 124A of IPC cannot be invoked to penalize criticism of the persons for the time being engaged in carrying   on   administration   or   strong   words used   to   express disapprobation of the measures of Government with a view to their improvement   or   alteration  by   lawful   means.”

The judgment delivered by the Division Bench consisting of the Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice N.M. Jamdar also said, Similarly, comments, however strongly worded, expressing disapprobation of actions  of   the  Government,   without   exciting  those  feelings which generate the inclination  to cause public disorder by acts of violence, would not be penal.  A citizen has a right to say or write whatever he likes about the Government, or its measures, by way of criticism or comments, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government established by law or with the intention of creating public disorder.  The section aims at rendering penal only such activities as would be intended, or have   a   tendency,   to create   disorder   or   disturbance   of   public peace by resort to violence.”

The Court, which had granted bail to Aseem Trivedi on a bond of Rs. 5000/- was hearing a public interest litigation filed by a lawyer, Sanskar Marathe in 2012.

The High Court in its judgment, further said, “Cartoons   or   caricatures   are   visual   representations, words or signs which are supposed to have an element of wit, humour or sarcasm. Having seen the seven cartoons in question drawn by the third respondent, it is difficult to find any element of   wit   or   humour   or sarcasm. The  cartoons   displayed  at   a meeting  held  on  27  November  2011  in  Mumbai,   as  a part   of movement   launched   by   Anna   Hazare   against   corruption   in India,   were full   of   anger   and   disgust   against   corruption prevailing in the political system and had no element of wit or humour or sarcasm.  But for that reason, the freedom of speech and expression available to the third respondent to express his indignation against corruption in the political system in strong terms or visual representations could not have been encroached upon  when  there  is  no  allegation  of  incitement  to  violence  or the tendency or the intention to create public disorder.”

However, the Court did not come down strictly on the government and accepted the submissions of the Advocate General who submitted that State Government in Home Department will issue the guidelines regarding applicability of S. 124 A, in the form of a Circular to all the Police personnel.

Read the Judgment here.