Kerala High Court declines to stay further proceedings in sedition case against Aisha Sultana

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The Kerala High Court on Friday declined to stay all the further proceedings in the sedition case registered by Karavatti police against Lakshadweep based film-maker Aisha Sultana for her controversial comments that the Centre government had used bioweapon against the islanders.

When the counsel for the film-maker sought an interim order staying further proceedings in the case, Justice Ashok Menon observed that the investigation was “at its infancy” and the prosecution would have to be given more time to collect necessary material. “It is too early to throw away” the prosecution case at the threshold itself. Therefore, no interim order could be passed.

The court made the observation while considering a petition filed by Ms. Aisha seeking to quash the sedition case against her.

The court also asked the Lakshadweep administration and its police to inform it about the progress of the investigation and allowed them to file a statement opposing the plea of the petitioner.

Administration’s stand
Aman Lekhi, Additional Solicitor General of India appearing for the Lakshadweep Administration, submitted that the investigation was at a preliminary stage and therefore, an interference with the case by the court was not called for. He further submitted that the petitioner’s repeated assertions during the discussion against the Centre was seditious.

A case under Sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 B (assertions against national integration) of the Indian Penal Code has been registered against Ms. Aisha, a native of Chetlat island, based on a petition filed by BJP’s Lakshadweep unit president Abdul Khader. She had made the controversial remarks on June 7 during a discussion on a Malayalam TV channel.

According to her, the offence alleged against her could not be invoked for penalising a person criticising the administration or expressing disapprobation of government measures. The statement expressing disapproval of the government actions, which did not cause any public disorder by creating violent acts could not be termed as seditious.

The alleged statements of the petitioner could only be termed as an expression of disapprobation of actions of the government and its functionaries so that the prevailing situation could be addressed quickly and effectively. She never intended to incite people or disturb public peace by resorting to violence, the film-maker argued.

In fact, her remarks did not come under the definition of Section 124 A of IPC as her remarks had not brought hatred, or contempt to the government or created disaffection towards the government. Nor her comments did create any violence. A candid and honest criticism on political matters did not constitute an offence of sedition. Besides, the offences under Section 153 B also would not stand against her as the words spoken were not prejudicial to the national integration or causing disharmony, she added.

She said that the statement made by her in the TV Channel discussion would have to be taken in its entirety and words could not be taken in isolation to suggest a motive. In this case, prima-facie she did not have a malicious motive to subvert the government. Her intention was explicitly a criticism against the modification of the COVID SOP introduced by the administrator.

The High Court had earlier granted her anticipatory bail in the case.

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