TAMIL NADU

Privilege issue resurfaces as defamation case

CHENNAI Nov. 10. The Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, has filed yet another defamation case against The Hindu, before the City Civil Court, this time for an article that appeared in its issue dated April 13, 2003 under the caption ``People's Court only way out for Opposition''. This is the same article for which a privilege issue was raised in the Assembly. Although the Privileges Committee recommended seven days simple imprisonment, the issue was not pressed because Ms. Jayalalithaa told the Assembly that as the matter concerned her, she did not want to insist on any action.

The City Public Prosecutor, who filed the present defamation complaint on behalf of the Chief Minister, submitted that the article was ``distorted to give an impression that the Government was bent on stifling the entire Opposition and disabling them (from) raising their voice during the Assembly proceedings''.

The article had also cast `deliberate' aspersions on the Chief Minister. The Chief of Bureau, V. Jayanth; the Editor, N. Ravi; the Executive Editor, Malini Parthasarathy, and the Publisher, S. Rangarajan, have been cited as respondents.

The article described how the Opposition leaders were shocked at some of the words used by the Chief Minister against them. The complainant said the Government was not averse to a discussion on any of the issues mentioned in the article. Recalling the ``portions'' in the article at which the Chief Minister ``is aggrieved'', he said The Hindu had come out with ``unfounded allegations'' only with the avowed purpose of defaming the Chief Minister, ``who enjoys unequivocal reputation among all political parties, officials and citizens of our State both in her official and personal capacity as an able administrator and highly respected individual, (and for) high standards of probity in public life...The press calls itself the `fourth estate' and if so it should realise its responsibilities and publish articles useful to society and not misuse the rights and publish false, frivolous and mischievous articles against innocent persons, so as to defame them in the eyes of the public,'' the complainant added.

The matter came up before the first additional sessions judge, who posted the matter for December 22.

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