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Kerala HC asks filmmaker to appear for questioning, grants interim bail in case of arrest

The film director-cum-activist—a prominent face of Lakshadweep residents’ protest against a slew of draft proposals mooted by administrator Praful K Patel for the “development” of the island chain—had approached the High Court fearing arrest.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: June 17, 2021 10:42:27 pm
Filmmaker and activist Aisha Sultana .

Kerala High Court Thursday directed filmmaker Aisha Sultana, charged with sedition for her “bioweapon” remark, to appear before the police in Lakshadweep for interrogation, but also granted her interim bail in case she is arrested.

The film director-cum-activist—a prominent face of Lakshadweep residents’ protest against a slew of draft proposals mooted by administrator Praful K Patel for the “development” of the island chain—had approached the High Court fearing arrest. The sedition case was registered against her on June 9 by the Kavaratti police following a complaint from BJP leader Abdul Khader Haji.

In an interim order on Thursday, a single-judge bench of Justice Ashok Menon said Sultana should be released on interim bail for a week after executing a bond of Rs 50,000 in the event of arrest. She was told to appear before the Kavaratti police on June 20 for questioning.

Sultana, during a debate on Malayalam channel MediaOne TV on the proposed reforms and decisions of Patel, said the Centre has used a “bioweapon” on the island. Allegedly referring to the recent spurt in Covid-19 cases in Lakshadweep, Sultana said: “I can clearly say that Centre has used bioweapon in the island. There is already a calculation that China has used the coronavirus as a bioweapon…” she had said.

After the statement sparked controversy, Sultana clarified that she meant that the Centre was using administrator Patel as a “bioweapon” on the islands.

The remarks had triggered protests from BJP in Kerala as well as Lakshadweep. The police had opposed her appeal saying that she had encouraged communalism. CPI(M) leader and Kerala Education Minister V Sivankutty had extended support to her.

In a related development, a division bench of S V Bhatti and Murali Purushothaman on Thursday rejected a public interest litigation moved by Congress leader Noushadi Ali against the proposed reforms of the administration in Lakshadweep.

Referring to the concerns raised by the petitioner against the draft proposals of the administrator, the court said, “examination of legality of draft regulation which is in the active consideration of the administrator, is completely premature”.

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