Kerala High Court Grants interim anticipatory bail to Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sultana in sedition case

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The Kerala High Court on Thursday granted interim anticipatory bail to Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sultana in a sedition case filed against her by a BJP worker.

A report by the Livelaw website said that the single Bench of Justice Ashok Menon ordered the filmmaker to appear for police questioning before the Kavaratti Police on 20 June but added that she should be released on bail if she is arrested by the police.

Last week, there were angry reactions from prominent politicians after Aisha Sultana was booked for sedition by police. The complaint was filed by one Abdul Khader, the Lakshadweep unit’s president of the BJP.  The FIR was lodged by the Kavaratti police under sections 124 A (sedition) and 153 B (hate speech) of the Indian Penal code.

This was after Aisha had said on a Malayalam TV channel that the central government was using biological weapons to spread coronavirus in Lakshadweep.

Explaining the context of her remarks, Aisha told the Kerala High Court that the contriversial decisions by the island’s new administrator Praful Patel had led to the alarming rise in the coronavirus cases. “With the appointment of the new administrator he brought in several new amendments, modifications and relaxations in the administration rules. It is submitted that these actions of the administration have invited tremendous opposition from the natives as well as from the people across the globe. Lakshadweep is now seeing an exponential rise in COVID-19 patients, the primitive healthcare system and geography of the area is adding to the number of deaths in the place. It was in this context that the applicant was invited for the discussion, and it was while explaining the said situation that such a remark was allegedly made by the applicant,” the Bar and Bench website quoted Sultana as saying.

Praful Patel, who hails from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, is the first non-bureaucrat to be appointed the administrator of a Muslim-majority union territory. The administrator has not explained how his decision to start liquor sale in Lakshadweep was justified when alcohol sale was banned in his home state of Gujarat. The BJP has not imposed a ban on the consumption and sale of beef in several states including Goa where it is in power due to respect for the dietary habits of the states’ dominant population group.

It’s in this context that locals in Lakshadweep feel that the slew of changes announced by Patel were brought in to harass the local Muslim population.

Patel is also accused of worsening the pandemic crisis in Lakshadweep by diluting the stringent measures already in place. The union territory was saved from the pandemic all through 2020 since visitors from mainland India were required to spend 14 days of strict quarantine before being allowed free movement on the island. However, Patel changed that rule and allowed visitors to only produce a negative RT-PCR obtained within 48 hours of their visit.

The change in the pandemic rule meant that Lakshadweep has now reported more than 7,500 cases and 30 deaths.