The Kerala High Court has directed Lakshadweep police to grant interim bail of one week to filmmaker Aisha Sultana if they decide to arrest her after questioning her in a sedition case. The court has reserved its final order in her anticipatory bail plea.
Aisha Sultana faces an FIR that has invoked sections of sedition and hate speech. The FIR was lodged following a police complaint by the BJP’s Lakshadweep unit chief C Abdul Khader Haji, who objected to her use of the term “bioweapon” while criticising the Centre and Lakshadweep Administrator Praful Khoda Patel over the alleged dilution of COVID protocols.
Aisha Sultana tendered an apology before the court today, saying she never realised that the use of the term “bioweapon” was an offence.
The counsel for the Lakshadweep administration told the court that while their intent was not to arrest but to question, a decision on arrest would be taken only after she is questioned. The counsel alleged that Aysha’s statement promoted communalism.
Aisha Sultana’s counsel, on the other hand, argued that she was criticising the government and that it did not attract the charge of sedition. The filmmaker’s counsel also said that she was willing to appear before the police for questioning.
Speaking at a news debate on a regional channel, the filmmaker had said that decisions by the new administrator had led to the Covid spike in the Union Territory.
“Lakshadweep had zero cases of COVID-19. Now it is reporting a daily spike of 100 cases. What the Centre has deployed is a bioweapon. I can say this clearly that the central government has deployed bioweapon,” she had said.
Her remarks came against the backdrop of protests in Lakshadweep and online against draft orders issued by Praful Patel after taking over.
Among the proposals made by the new administrator are a detention law that gives sweeping powers to the administration to arrest anyone for up to one to a year, a land acquisition law that gives arbitrary powers to the administration and a proposed ban on killing of cattle. Lakshadweep’s residents, who are mostly Muslims, have said the proposals are against their traditions and have been issued without consultations.