Chennai: The Madras high court on Thursday observed while quashing a defamation case filed against India Today Tamil magazine “If the press is gagged for publishing news, democracy in this country will be in utter peril and India will become a Nazi State”.
Justice PN Prakash allowed two petitions filed by the management of India Today Tamil Magazine challenging the prosecution proceedings initiated against it before the Principal Sessions Court, Chennai.Ruling that the proceedings before the lower court were an abuse of process of law, the judge said the court will be failing in its duty if such attempts by the “mighty State” to “trample the press for no good reason” are not resisted.
The matter relates to an article published by the magazine dated 8 August, 2012, in which it was alleged that at the instance of VK Sasikala the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa removed KA Sengottaiyan as minister, following which the city public prosecutor filed a defamation case.
“For publishing news, if the press is gagged, democracy in this country will be in utter peril,” the court observed, “India is a vibrant democracy and the fourth estate is indubitably an indispensable part of it. If the voice of the fourth estate is stifled in this manner, India will become a Nazi State and the hard labour of our freedom-fighters and makers of our Constitution will go down the drain.”
The judge refused to accept the arguments of public prosecutor A Natarajan that on reading of the entire article, the public could draw an inference that Sengottaiyan was removed from ministership only at the instance of Sasikala and this would amount to imputation.
Prakash said even on a reading of the entire article, “the court is not able to draw such an inference as argued by the public prosecutor. Further, it is not open to this court to strain the language employed in the article or to read between the lines, for arriving at such an inference.”
Same Court Differing Judges:
WhileJustice PN Prakash bats for the Press freedom vehemently, it may be noted that in the month of September 2018 Justice Huluvadi Ramesh issued a GAG order to media in a sexual harassment case filed by a Woman SP against Tamil Nadu’s DVAC – JD Murugan, the filed by her pleaded to transfer Murugan, as he is tampering evidence & witnesses. But, the Division Bench of the Madras HC, transferred the Woman SP’s plea from a single Judge to itself, and issues a gag order.The bench also stays the investigation on the FIR against Murugan by CB.CID.