Chennai : The Madras high court on Friday stayed the Tamil Nadu government’s criminal defamation proceedings against The Times of India for having published the statements of senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.
Justice V Ramasubramanian granted the interim stay on a writ petition filed by the printer and the publisher of the newspaper’s Chennai edition, S Santhanagopal and editor Sunil Nair.
The judge also dispensed with their personal appearance before the principal sessions judge on October 30. “Notice, in the meanwhile, there will be an interim stay of all further proceedings. The personal appearance of the petitioners is dispensed with,” he said.
The government issued a GO authorising city public prosecutor M L Jagan to file a defamation complaint on September 4, and it was filed the next day.
The matter pertains to a news item on the ownership of boats impounded by Sri Lankan authorities on charges of illegal crossing of international maritime boundary.
Assailing the criminal defamation proceedings, the writ petition cited the Supreme Court rulings in earlier cases, that free speech was the foundation of a democratic society and free exchange of ideas, dissemination of information without restraint and dissemination of knowledge.
As a free and independent newspaper, it is the duty of the press to report news and events in an impartial manner and the news report in question was published only in that spirit, it said.