High drama as cops seek to hold cartoonist Bala despite bail

Attempts by the Tamil Nadu police to take cartoonist Balakrishnan back into custody after he was granted bail in a defamation case created a situation worthy of a cartoon in itself.

Balakrishnan, also known as G Bala, was produced in court in Tirunelveli around At around 10.30 am, where Judicial Magistrate M Ramadoss granted him bail on two sureties and posted a hearing for 9 November in a case pertaining to alleged demeaning of the chief minister, the collector and the city police commissioner through a cartoon.

After fulfilling the formalities, Bala was interacting with his counsels outside the court when Inspector Anitha Arockia Mary of the Serious Crime Squad attempted to take Bala for re-interrogation. His advocates strongly resisted, and an altercation resulted which eventually led to a melee.

Upon hearing the commotion, magistrate Ramadoss came out and directed the police to duly summon Bala if they wanted him for interrogation. Subsequently, lawyers escorted Bala into their chamber.

''Even after the court had granted the bail, the police tried to forcibly take custody of Bala, which is illegal. We, the advocates, thwarted the attempt. The Tamil Nadu government, the collector and the superintendent of police owe an explanation on this violation as the police officer's act has challenged the court,'' Bala's counsel S Vanchinathan said.

Since the advocates suspected that the police's attempt to arrest Bala based on a fresh complaint would continue, they took him to the 'advocates' room' where the police are not allowed to enter. After keeping him for a while, the advocates escorted him out of the court premises to speak to the media.

A defiant Bala proclaimed that he would continue to highlight the inefficiencies of the government through cartoons.

Meanwhile, in what is becoming the usual course of events in India, the ham-handed attempts by the state government to silence a critic had the opposite effect, as the cartoon, which might otherwise have been little noticed has gone viral on the social media.

Bala told the media, ''After receiving a complaint from the collector on 1 November, the police started following me. I received a phone call from a lady who introduced herself as my fan and said she wanted to meet me. I could sense that the call was from a police officer. When the police arrested me, I was not allowed to contact my advocate.

''As all their attempts to keep me behind the bars at least for two days have failed miserably, they are desperately trying to arrest me again by getting a fresh complaint lodged,'' Bala said before leaving the court complex.