R.R. Gopal case: HC seeks explanation from magistrate

R.R. Gopal, editor, Nakkheeran. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Madras High Court on Tuesday sought an explanation from a metropolitan magistrate for having invited N. Ram, veteran journalist and Chairman, The Hindu Group’s publishing company, THG Publishing Private Limited, on October 9 to express his views on a case booked by the Chennai police against R.R. Gopal, Editor of Tamil magazine Nakkheeran, following a complaint lodged by the Raj Bhavan.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh directed the magistrate to explain by November 28 under which provision of law Mr. Ram was asked to make his submissions. The court was hearing a petition filed by the police to set aside the magistrate’s October 9 order refusing to remand Mr. Gopal in judicial custody.

“In a court proceeding, a person can appear as party-in-person or be represented by a counsel or the person concerned can give power to another person to appear for him. In this case, Mr. Ram seems to have appeared before the court and made submissions regarding freedom of press. This court does not understand as to how the court below asked Mr. Ram to make his submissions,” the judge said.

The police had engaged senior counsel A. Ramesh as a SPP to conduct the case booked under Section 124 (assaulting President/Governor with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power) of the Indian Penal Code. He argued that the magistrate’s order was “perverse and illegal” because the judicial officer had refused to remand the accused and yet directed him to execute a bail bond for ₹10,000.

‘Patent illegality’

“Where is the question of executing a bond when the accused has not been remanded and let out on bail? The magistrate cannot blow hot and cold at the same time. Bail should be a sine qua non for execution of a bond under Section 441 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Therefore, a patent illegality is there on the face of the record,” he contended.

Consequently he urged the High Court to stay the operation of the magistrate’s order. The term ‘assault’ referred to in Section 124 of IPC need not necessarily mean physical assault. Even an attempt to “overawe” the Governor was an offence under the provision, he said, adding the magazine had done exactly that through a series of publications. “I am not very much concerned with the arrest of the accused. I am more concerned with the way in which freedom of speech and expression is misused,” the SPP said.

Justice Venkatesh, however, said it would not be appropriate to stay the magistrate’s order without ordering notice to the accused. He said a decision on quashing the magistrate’s order would be taken on November 29 after hearing both sides.

The SPP told the court that he shall submit a representation to the Chief Justice and get an anticipatory bail application filed by the co-accused, mostly employees of the magazine, tagged along with the present petition to quash the Magistrate’s order.

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Printable version | Sep 24, 2021 6:32:20 PM |

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