On October 12, the Maharashtra state government dropped the sedition charges against cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on advice from the advocate general. Though police were instructed to remove the charge from his case, Trivedi still faces additional charges under the Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act, 1971.
Mumbai Police arrested Trivedi on September 8 for sedition charges stemming from his cartoons, which criticize and expose corruption in India’s government. His arrest sparked protests from supporters, leading the government to promise a review of the charges against Trivedi.
State counsel explained to the court that the sedition charges were a “knee-jerk” reaction. The counsel plans to draft a circular with guidelines on the application of Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (the sedition law), and send it to all police stations upon approval of the court.
Trivedi, along with Syrian artist Ali Ferzat, was selected to receive the 2012 Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from Cartoonists Rights Network International. He was chosen for the honor because of his cartoons exposing corruption in the Indian government and his dedication to India’s growing free speech movement. After his arrest, Trivedi affirmed his commitment to the fight for free speech in India, saying that as a “mirror of society,” art needs to play a larger role. “The better you want to be, the more you want to progress, the bigger your mirror should be. You will have to enlarge the mirror of society.”
Trivedi’s remaining charges are for insult to national symbols, emblem, and parliament under Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act, 1971. A conviction carries a sentence of up to 3 years in prison, a fine, or both. Hearings on these charges are in progress as of this writing.
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Soyini A. Hamit is a comic fan, a writer, and a 2015 J.D. candidate at Phoenix School of Law.