Kerala High Court grants anticipatory bail to Filmmaker Aisha Sultana in sedition case

The Kerala High Court on Friday granted anticipatory bail to filmmaker Aisha Sultana in a sedition case.

Sultana is facing a sedition case for calling Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel a “bio-weapon” for his decision to relax COVID-19 protocols in the island.

Earlier on June 14, the filmmaker approached the Kerala High Court seeking anticipatory bail in the case. Three days later, the court granted her an interim anticipatory bail for one week, and reserved its final verdict on the plea

On June 10, the Lakshadweep police had booked Sultana for allegedly saying that the Union government was using Lakshadweep’s administrator Praful Khoda Patel as a “bio-weapon” against the residents. The head of the Lakshadweep BJP unit 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.

She was asked to appear before the police in Lakshadweep’s capital Kavaratti on June 20.

Aisha Sultana had participated in Malayalam news channel Media One’s prime time debate on the issue on June 7, where she made the remarks against COVID-19 mismanagement of current Lakshadweep administration.

“The island was COVID-free until Patel came leading to the outbreak of the disease,” she said, reacting to the hate campaigns and police complaints against her. She said that despite being aware of the dilapidated healthcare system on the island, the administrator paid no heed and demoted the medical director. “I compared him to a bio-weapon,” she said, referring to the statements she made in the show. “My comments were not made against the Union Government. I implied the biological impacts of the regulations heralded in by the administrator on the native population,” she added.

Lakshadweep had remained COVID-free throughout 2020 because of the strict guidelines. But Patel is accused of exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis in Lakshadweep after he changed the guidelines in January by allowing anyone entry into the islands with a negative RT-PCR report obtained 48 hours before their travel. A week after the rules were changed, the territory reported its first coronavirus case on January 17.

Condemning the attack on dissent, many politicians, activists and celebrities in the islands and mainland, brought out the statements vowing solidarity to the filmmaker’s stance.

Aisha Sultana, who has worked with several Malayalam filmmakers including Lal Jose, is making her independent directorial debut with ‘Flush.’

A woman filmmaker is a first in Lakshadweep’s history. Aisha has previously worked as an associate director on the Asif Ali film Kettyolaanu Ente Malaakha.

Lakshadweep newly-appointed administrator Patel’s recent decisions and draconian regulations have caused discontent in the Muslim-majority islands.

He has been accused of implementing Goonda Act in a place where least number of violent crimes reported in the country, banning beef products in a place the meat is widely consumed, demolishing fishermen’s sheds in coastal areas for violating the Coast Guard Act and revoking restrictions on the consumption of alcohol.

The former Gujarat BJP Minister of State for Home Praful Patel said to be very close to the Prime Minister’s office, RSS and BJP leadership.

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