Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Tuesday quashed all criminal proceedings initiated against columnist S. Gurumurthy by the Special Investigation Team probing the Sankararaman murder case.

The charge against Mr. Gurumurthy was that he had written a series of articles "to create false evidence and to sidetrack the investigation team from the Sankararaman murder case." He was accused of refusing to answer questions from public servants handling the case. He was also charged under the provisions of the Press and Registration of Books Act 1887.

Justice M. Jeyapaul, rejecting the charges, said the punishable provision under the Press and Registration of Books Act did not apply to any false statement made by Mr. Gurumurthy in his articles. "Without properly adverting to the import of the penal provision and the source of such penal provision he has been wrongly charged based on total misconception of law," the Judge said. He said the investigating officer had summoned the columnist because he was irked by some articles written by him.

"Usually the journalist collects information from furtive sources and publishes it for public consumption. No one can attribute special knowledge to the journalist about the information he has adverted to in the article," Mr. Justice Jeyapaul said.

As regards the denial of materials to Mr. Gurumurthy, the Judge said the former had not been told as to what were the false statements made by him. "When the petitioner was not informed, even after the chargesheet has been filed, as to what was were the important information he had withheld, he cannot be compelled to face trial."

"The petitioner, who is a columnist has simply expressed his views based on the information he had collected from certain sources. He who does not have personal knowledge about the information cannot be asked to come out with such information... When there is no foundation for the case against the petitioner, he cannot be directed to undergo the ordeal of trial," the Judge said and quashed the criminal proceedings pending before the Judicial Magistrate Court in Kancheepuram.