The Kerala High Court on Wednesday temporarily stayed the sedition proceedings stemming from the First Information Report (FIR) registered against filmmaker Aisha Sultana in 2021 by the Lakshadweep Police.
Nearly a year ago, 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.
On Wednesday, Justice Ziyad Rahman AA passed the interim order staying the proceedings under sedition for a period of three months, in line with the recent directions of the Supreme Court in that regard, Bar and Bench reported.
Last year, two weeks after booking under sedition, a single-judge had granted Sultana anticipatory bail noting that there was no apparent indication of any assertions in her statement which were prejudicial to national interest. Later, the Court declined to grant an interim order staying the FIR registered against Sultana stating that it would be improper for the Court to interfere at that stage of the investigation.
Lakshadweep had remained COVID-free throughout 2020 because of the strict guidelines. But Patel was accused of exacerbating the COVID-19 crisis in Lakshadweep after he had changed the guidelines in January 2021 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 17 January 2021. The island had recorded more than 10,000 total cases, with more than 50 deaths. There were only three hospitals for the 10 inhabited islands in Lakshadweep.
Lakshadweep administrator Patel’s decisions and draconian regulations had caused discontent in the Muslim-majority island.
He had 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 was 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.