The Supreme Court on Monday stayed three criminal defamation cases filed against Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy by the Tamil Nadu government.
With this, the apex court has stayed proceedings in all six criminal defamation cases filed against Dr. Swamy by the State government.
Appearing for the State, senior advocate L. Nageshwar Rao submitted before a Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra that no person has the right to make comments about the personal health of the Chief Minister.
He was referring to one of the six cases filed against Dr. Swamy.
The stay order came on an application filed by Dr. Swamy, in the backdrop of the SC reserving its judgment in a batch of writ petitions challenging the constitutionality of criminal defamation as a penal offence, saying it has a chilling effect on free speech. Dr. Swamy was the lead petitioner in that case.
In his writ petition, Dr. Swamy challenged the constitutional validity of Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code (relating to criminal defamation), contending that these provisions violated the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution on freedom of speech and expression.
He said “these provisions are a throwback to an earlier repressive British regime and they run counter to the international benchmarks on freedom, particularly of the media.”
Dr. Swamy said the Tamil Nadu government, at the instance of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, had resorted to these provisions and filed hundreds of criminal cases.