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“Criticism On Political Matters Not Sedition”: Lakshadweep Filmmaker Aisha Sulthana Moves Kerala High Court For Pre-Arrest Bail

Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sulthana has approached the High Court of Kerala seeking anticipatory bail in the case for sedition filed against her over her remarks against the island administration’s new regulations

By: Darshana Pagare, ILS, Pune

Sulthana is seeking pre-arrest bail in the FIR registered by Kavaratti Police Station under Section 124A (sedition) and Section 153B (Acts against national integration) of the Indian Penal Code.

The FIR is based on a complaint by a BJP worker against the alleged remarks made by Aisha Sulthana during a channel discussion that the Government of India had used a “bio-weapon” against the island inhabitants.

The bail application under Section 438 of the Criminal Procedure Code was filed after Sulthana was served a notice under Section 41A CrPC asking her to appear at Police Headquarters, Kavaratti, in relation to the case investigation.

In the bail plea, the filmmaker says that she made the ‘bio-weapon’ remark in the context of criticizing the administration relaxing the COVID-19 protocol, which led to sharp increase of pandemic cases in the island, where there had been not even a single COVID case till January 2021. Lakshwadweep is seeing an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases due to the relaxations in the quarantine protocol, and it is in this context that the alleged remarks were made, her bail plea says. 

The application further states that criticism on political issues does not constitute the offence of sedition under Section 124A IPC. Referring to the Supreme Court judgment in the Kedarnath Case, it is contended that a mere criticism of the government is not sedition if there is no incitement to violence.

Reference is also made to the recent Supreme Court judgment in the Vinod Dua case, where the Court said “A citizen has a right to criticize or comment upon the measures undertaken by the Government and its functionaries, so long as he does not incite people to violence against the Government or with the intention of creating public disorder.”

There is no case that the statement of the applicant has created disaffection towards the Government or a case of imminent violence sparked by the words spoken by the applicant. 

“It is submitted that the applicant had only intended to say that it was due to the apathetic approach and reforms of the new administrator that a serious threat is being caused to the lives of the people of the Island and had absolutely no intention of exciting disaffection towards the Government”, the plea states.

Aisha Sulthana says that on realizing that her remarks had sparked off a controversy, she issued an explanation on social media that she never had any intention to excite disaffection or hatred towards the Government and offered an apology. It is further submitted that the offences under section 153B of the IPC also will not stand against the applicant at the words spoken is not prejudicial to national-integration or causing disharmony or feelings of enmity or hatred or ill-will.

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