The Lakshadweep administration on Thursday told the Kerala High Court that activist and filmmaker Aisha Sultana abused the interim protection granted to her by the court by flouting Covid-19 norms, reported Live Law. Sultana is facing a sedition case for calling Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel a “bio-weapon” for his decision to relax Covid-19 protocols.
The activist-filmmaker was summoned by the island police on June 20 in connection with the case. The High Court, in its order on June 17, had said that if arrested, she will be released on interim anticipatory bail for one week.
In a separate application filed on Thursday, the administration alleged that Sultana met people and spoke to the media even after she was advised to stay in home quarantine except when called for interrogation. She also allegedly met Covid-19 patients at an isolation centre on June 21.
“The violation of quarantine norms after giving assurance to the nodal officer shows that she has no respect for the law of the land and legal obligations,” said the administration’s petition.
The administration contended that the accused’s behaviour proved that her protest against relaxation of Covid-19 protocols to justify her “bio-weapon” remark was mere pretention. It asked the court to consider this while hearing her anticipatory bail application, reported Hindustan Times. The High Court, on June 17, had reserved its final verdict on Sultana’s plea seeking anticipatory bail.
On June 10, the police had booked Sultana for saying that the Centre was using the Union Territory’s administrator Praful Khoda Patel as a “bio-weapon” against the residents. The Lakshadweep unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party had filed a complaint, accusing her of making “anti-national” comments “tarnishing the patriotic image of the central government” during a debate on a Malayalam news channel.
Sultana has been booked under Section 124A (sedition) and Section 153B (acts against national integration) of the Indian Penal Code.
In her bail plea, Sultana had argued that criticism of political matters did not constitute sedition. Referring to two Supreme Court judgements, including one in the Vinod Dua case, the filmmaker contended that merely criticising the government did not amount to sedition if there was no incitement to violence.
She also stated that her protest was mainly against the new standard operating procedure related to Covid-19 in the Union Territory. Residents of Lakshadweep have blamed Patel’s decision to relax quarantine norms for the rise in Covid-19 cases. For nearly a year, the Union Territory was free of the pandemic. The first coronavirus case was reported in Lakshadweep on January 18. As of Thursday morning, Lakshadweep has 340 active cases of coronavirus, 9.172 recoveries and 47 fatalities.
The proposed regulations
A slew of regulations introduced by Patel have triggered a massive outcry among the residents of the Union Territory as well as Opposition parties.
The new regulations by Patel include a proposed cow slaughter ban, a preventive detention law in the Union Territory – which has one of the lowest crime rates in the country – and a draft law proposing sweeping changes in land development rules.
Opposition parties have criticised Patel’s decisions related to the Union Territory and have asked for his removal from the post. The parties accused him of harassing locals and destroying the heritage of the island territory. Politicians have also alleged that Patel, who had served as Gujarat home minister, has been targeting Lakshadweep’s large Muslim population.