Aseem Trivedi, a 25-year-old political cartoonist, has been charged with treason and insulting the Indian national emblems, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews.
Trivedi was inspired by the well-known social activist Anna Hazare's fight against corruption and graft. Trivedi drew cartoons criticizing the Indian government, some of which were exhibited while Hazare was fasting in Mumbai in December.
Trivedi faces another legal attack in Mumbai. There, lawyer R.P. Pandey has filed his own complaint, alleging that the cartoons are defamatory and derogatory and requesting strict legal action, according to news reports.
While Mumbai police have yet to file charges, the complaint has had repercussions: Big Rock, a domain name registrar, suspended Trivedi's website, www.cartoonistsagainstcorruption.com, citing the criminal complaint, The Times of India reported.
Speaking to CPJ from Mumbai, Pandey claimed that while parodying politicians was a legitimate pursuit, mocking national institutions like the Indian Parliament and national symbols was completely unacceptable.
Trivedi told CPJ that he sees the ban against his website as arbitrary and a sign of the government's growing intolerance toward dissent.
Popular Mumbai cartoonist Aseem Trivedi has been sent to judicial custody till 16 September on charges of sedition, which is a non-bailable offence.
Trivedi was arrested on charges of displaying supposedly ugly and obscene content . Trivedi has charges framed against him under the IT Act, as well as the 1971 National Emblem act.
He had also exhibited similar cartoons at an India Against Corruption rally in December 2011 at the MMRDA grounds, following which his website was immediately banned.
The police are also bringing charges relating to his displaying cartoons at the 2011 rally in Bandra.
The cartoons which are grouped under the title, cartoons against corruption often feature derogatory depictions of politicians such as Digvijaya Singh and the Prime Minister. One of the cartoons also depicts the national Ashoka emblem as three
wolves dripping blood from their jaws, with the title, wolves with the signs of danger .
The government in the western Indian state of Maharashtra has dropped sedition charges against
anti-corruption cartoonist Aseem Trivedi.
In one of a series of cartoons, he replaced the customary three lions in India's national emblem with three wolves, their teeth dripping blood, with the message Long live corruption written underneath. Another cartoon depicted the Indian
parliament as a giant toilet bowl.
The police arrested him and accused him of insulting national symbols. We was freed from prison on bail after an outcry.
Many Indians criticised his arrest saying it was an attack on freedom of expression.
Update: Not so Fast. Cartoonist still facing charges
After intense public pressure, the Maharashtra state government last week dropped the charge of sedition against Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. However, Trivedi still faces other charges as his case resumes at the Bombay High court.
The cartoonist could have been sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted of sedition. However he still faces up to three years in prison for other charges including violation of the Prevention of Insult to National Honour Act and Information
Technology Act, his lawyer Vijay Hiremath told CPJ by e-mail.
Alok Dixit, Trivedi's friend and founder of Internet freedom campaign Save Your Voice, told CPJ by phone:
We are pleased that the sedition charge has been removed as [the Home Ministry] promised. But we are prepared to fight the remaining charges.
Update: The Indian political cartoonist the government doesn't want you to know about
After his 2012 arrest Trivedi spent most of the next three years in court, dividing his time between his own case and a legal challenge against the IT Act's controversial section 66A, which imposes up to three years imprisonment for sharing offensive
The sedition charges were finally thrown out by the Bombay High Court in March 2015. Two weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled that section 66A - under which a number of people had been arrested over the past couple of years, including a Mumbai
school girl - was unconstitutional. The law was being used quite frequently to arrest people, and it had created an atmosphere of fear, Trivedi says. So when the Supreme Court struck it down, it sent out the message that free speech is
something worth protecting.