Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, facing sedition charges, was on Tuesday granted bail by the Bombay high court and his associate said he will walk out of the Arthur Road jail on Wednesday. Trivedi will come out of jail on Wednesday at around 3 pm, India Against Corruption (IAC) member Mayank Gandhi said outside the prison after meeting Trivedi.
Gandhi, who met the cartoonist in the jail on Tuesday night, said the prison authorities have received the court order related to bail.
The Kanpur-based artist was initially reluctant to come out of jail unless all charges levelled against him are dropped, the IAC member said.
However, since state home minister RR Patil has promised to get the sedition charge dropped and to show respect to the court Trivedi has decided to come out of jail, Gandhi said.
Patil had earlier told reporters that he would seek the opinion of the Law department on the sedition charge.
“After getting the details, we shall take a decision on the issue of withdrawing the sedition charge on the cartoonist,” he said.
The high court while granting him bail observed that if drawing cartoons was the only allegation against him, then his custody was not required.
The division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar directed Trivedi to be released on execution of a personal bail-bond of Rs. 5,000.
The bail order was passed by the bench upon a public interest litigation by city-based lawyer Sanskar Marathe, who sought Trivedi’s release because his arrest was “illegal, bad in law, and unjustified”.
Earlier on Tuesday, the HC had granted an hour’s time to the state government to seek instructions from higher police officials as to why the government should oppose the bail.
But additional Public Prosecutor Purnima Kantharia later told the court that officers were in a meeting with the chief minister, and were not immediately available.
She had also argued that the high court had no “locus” (jurisdiction) to grant bail, and if the accused wished, he could move the magistrate’s court. Also, the probe in the case was on, she had said.
The bench, however, refused to accept her argument and said, “He can be released on a personal bond.”
The court posted the PIL for further hearing on September 17, to decide whether sedition charge was applicable. The police were directed to file their reply before it.
Marathe’s PIL contends that Trivedi’s cartoons cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be said to attract the serious charge of sedition.
“The right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Indian Constitution will be under a serious threat if social activists and cartoonists are arrested on sedition charges,” the petition said.
Trivedi was arrested on Saturday for allegedly depicting the national emblem and the Parliament in bad light in his cartoons during the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare here December 2011 and later for posting them on his website.
The Mumbai police action sparked an outrage in the media and public cirlces on grounds of violating freedom of expression.
Under fire, the police after getting a week’s custody of Trivedi on Sunday produced him before the court within 24 hours, saying it has completed his interrogation and no longer required him. The cartoonist was yesterday sent to jail till September 24. He refused to seek bail.