Mumbai: Barely a day after cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was sent to seven days police custody after being arrested on sedition charges, investigators cut short his questioning Monday and presented him in a Mumbai court, which sent him to judicial custody till Sep 24.
Even as the incident created furore across the country, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which holds the home minister's post in the state government, spoke in different voices on the issue.
Trivedi, 25, an anti-corruption campaigner, is accused of uploading "ugly and obscene" matter on his web portal and putting up objectionable banners insulting the constitution during Anna Hazare's anti-corruption agitation here last December.
Facing sedition charges under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, along with other offences under the Information Technology Act, he was nabbed by police from Bandra-Kurla late Saturday after a non-bailable warrant was issued against him.
A Bandra magistrate Sunday sent him to seven days police custody.
Police, however, questioned him for a day and decided not to grill him any further. The sudden turnaround by police on the duration of Trivedi's custodial interrogation came after the furore.
He was Monday produced again before a court which sent him to judicial custody till Sep 24.
Trivedi, an activist of India Against Corruption, has refused to apply bail in the case until the sedition charges - which attract a maximum life imprisonment - are withdrawn.
While Home Minister R.R. Patil claimed that while his department was not involved in the case against Trivedi, and assured that the government would arrange for his speedy release, the party defended the police action against Trivedi and even demanded that he should apologise before his case could be considered sympathetically.
NCP state spokesman Nawab Malik said people are being misguided into believing that Trivedi has been nabbed for supporting the anti-corruption agitation, but said he was arrested for sketching objectionable cartoons of national emblems, the Constitution and parliament and uploading it on his website.
"Right to freedom of speech and expression does not entitle anybody to resort to abuse. His cartoons were not against the government or political parties, but against the country," Malik declared.
Incidentally, Trivedi's arrest was made on a complaint filed by a Republican Party of India activist Amit Katarnaye.
IAC, which has strongly condemned Trivedi's arrest, sought his unconditional release and dropping of the senseless charges of sedition, a spokesperson Preeti Menon said.
"He told us that he is prepared to remain in custody for as long as required and would not appoint a lawyer or seek bail until the charges of sedition slapped on him were dropped," IAC member Preeti Menon told IANS.
The Mumbai Press Club also condemned the arrest and termed the sedition charges as "draconian and outdated piece of law".
In a statement in New Delhi condemning the incident, the IAC said that Trivedi's harassment "smacks of vendetta against the anti-corruption movement, and portrays sign of a paranoid state".
"IAC firmly stands for freedom of expression and expresses its anguish against a growing culture of intolerance for creative expression in the public domain," the statement added.
Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju also termed the sedition charge against Trivedi as "stupid" and demanded action against politicians and police responsible for arresting the cartoonist.