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Background

  • Lakshadweep filmmaker Aisha Sulthana approached the High Court of Kerala after an FIR was registered against her in the Karavatti police station accusing her of offenses u/s 124 A and 153 B of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Senior Advocate P. Vijayabhanu submitted that the Applicant apprehended imminent arrest and detention pursuant to her interrogation and hence filed the bail application.
  • Sulthana had pointed out that there was no case of Covid-19 until January 2021 on the island due to the strict quarantine system in place. However, the SOP was relaxed to the extent of dropping the mandatory quarantine for persons entering the islands after the appointment of the latest administrator.
  • During a discussion conducted by a TV channel media on 7th June 2021, the applicant alleged that the Centre had deployed a biological weapon against the people of the island.
  • Consequently, a complaint was lodged by C. Abdul Khader, Lakshadweep BJP President against the allegations made by the Applicant which was registered as an FIR subsequently leading to a notice to the Applicant.

Submissions of the Applicant

  • It was submitted that the ‘bio weapon’ statement was made only to criticize the apathetic approach in the reforms brought about by the new administrator that possessed a serious threat to the island people.
  • The Applicant had no intention of inciting disaffection towards the government. She also claimed that when she got the knowledge of it resulting in controversies, she immediately explained her stand and apologized for hurting the sentiments of people through social media and interviews.
  • It was submitted that the allegation of sedition and provoking disharmony among people were false and unsustainable and were made with ulterior motive and vexatious intentions.
  • Counsel for Sulthana also submitted that she had a right under Article 19 of the Constitution to express and views and opinions subject to reasonable restrictions.

Administration’s Submissions

  • The Counsel for Central Government for the Lakshadweep Administration, Advocate S. Manu submitted that the Applicant's assertions were baseless and have severe consequences against the Central Government.
  • It was also pointed out that despite being warned by the TV anchor, she still stood by her statements and asserted that she is ready to face the consequences.
  • It was also submitted that the comparison with China as to the use of coronavirus as a bioweapon against other countries clearly showed her intentions behind the statement.
  • The Administration submitted that through her statement, she attempted to provoke hatred, contempt, and disaffection towards the government. It was also submitted that such statements are likely to cause enmity and ill will between the people of the island and the rest of the country.
  • It was contended that the bail application was not maintainable since there was no bona fide reason to believe that the applicant may be arrested for a non-bailable offense.

Court’s Observations

  • The Court observed that the Applicant did not have malicious motive to subvert the Government of India merely on the usage of a strong word ‘bio weapon’ to express her vehemence in disapproval of the matter under discussion.
  • It also observed that the Applicant’s intention was only to criticize the relaxation of SOP by the new administrator.
  • The Single Judge Bench of Hon’ble Justice Ashok Menon held that as for the offense under section 153 B, there was no apparent indication in her statements which amounts to prejudicial assertions to the national interest nor does it propagate one class against another.
  • The Court held that there was nothing on record to show that the Applicant might not co-operate with the investigation and allowed the Application and anticipatory interim bail was made absolute.
  • The Single Judge Bench held that she had no criminal antecedents and was not likely to flee from justice.

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