The SC on Monday questioned the Tamil Nadu government about a flood of appeals to the apex court by those seeking protection from criminal defamation cases registered by the State apparatus.
A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant advised the State to stop taking criticism of governance as a personal insult. The court was hearing a petition filed by DMDK leader Vijayakanth, for protection against a criminal defamation case. Meanwhile, the court dismissed the State’s plea challenging a Madras High Court order quashing a lower court’s order for police custody of Tamil folksinger S. Kovan.
Criminal defamation law not for use against criticism: SC
The Supreme Court expressed curiosity about the sheer inflow of cases connected to criminal defamation coming from Tamil Nadu.
A Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant was hearing a petition filed by DMDK leader Vijayakanth aka ‘Captain Vijayakant’, represented by advocate G.S. Mani, for protection against a criminal defamation case. The State government sought more time to file a reply.
The same Bench had only recently heard and reserved for judgment a batch of petitions led by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, who had also several criminal defamation cases filed against him by the State government, to declare criminal defamation “unconstitutional” for having a chilling effect on free speech. “This kind of cases is mostly coming from this State... Why,” Justice Misra asked the Tamil Nadu side.
“You have to understand that these comments are criticism of a concept of governance. There is nothing against an individual... . Why this criminal defamation then,” Justice Misra questioned the State government.
Plea against Kovan dismissed
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the Tamil Nadu government’s plea challenging a Madras High Court order that quashed a lower court’s order of two-day police custody for Tamil folksinger S. Kovan.
The State had termed the singer a “habitual offender involved in committing offences against the government.”
A Bench, led by Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla, dismissed the plea on finding no merit in the case. Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi appeared for Tamil Nadu.
Kovan, 44, was arrested in Tiruchi on October 30 and charged with sedition, uploading defamatory video content against Chief Minister Jayalalithaa causing “hatred for and disaffection with the government.”
The police said that during the course of their investigation it emerged that he had links with Naxals. Based on this claim, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Egmore, ordered two-day police custody of the singer. However, the High Court, on his appeal, set aside the Magistrate’s order on the ground that the prosecution was unable to produce any evidence to support its claim.
State pulled up
The High Court pulled up the State for charging Kovan under Section 66A — already struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional — of the Information Technology Act. Subsequently, a Chennai Sessions Judge granted Kovan bail on November 16.
Blaming the High Court order for stalling its investigation and leading to Kovan’s release on bail, the State, through advocate Yogesh Kanna, said: “The case… pertains to publication of a video on the Internet through which the respondent [Kovan] purported to cause hatred for and excite disaffection with the government and instigate people against the State causing prejudice to the national security.”