In a day of dramatic developments, a Chennai magistrate on Tuesday quashed a case registered against “Nakkeeran” magazine editor R R Gopal by the police over a publication of an article linking Governor Banwarilal Purohit with a sex scandal in the Madurai Kamaraj University
The Thirteenth Metropolitan Magistrate threw out the case after a battery of lawyers, as well as former Hindu editor N Ram interceded on behalf of Gopal and argued that slapping a sedition charge against a journalist was far worse than filing a criminal defamation case.
The dramatic turn around came when Gopal was produced before the magistrate for remand. The magistrate rejected the remand request on the ground that no prima facie had been made out against him and set him free.
Gopal told reporters outside the court that it was a blow for press freedom and thanked all the parties and others who stood by him.
The release came at the end of day-long drama as political parties and press organisations condemned the police action taken on the basis of a complaint lodged by the Governor’s deputy secretary after the magazine in its latest issue on the sex scandal in MKU, quoted the confessional statement of Arupokkottai college assistant Professor Nirmala Devi, an accused, who had claimed that she lured several college girls into sex trade by claiming proximity to the Governor and other VIPs.
The magazine also quoted Nirmala Devi as having told the police that she was introduced to the Governor by his secretary Rajagopalan during a visit to Madurai.
Gopal was arrested by two Deputy Commissioners of Police and eight inspectors earlier in the day at the airport when he was on his way to Pune, He was bundled into a police van and taken to Chintradipet station where he was grilled for hours on the complaint lodged by Sengottayan with Chennai Police Commissioner A K Viswanathan.
As news spread, journalists came out in protest and crowded the police station and the magistrate’s court. The magistrate allowed ten advocates, as also The Hindu’s Ram, to argue for Gopal.
After hearing the arguments, the magistrate quashed the case under Sec 124A which deals with inciting disaffection towards or contempt against the Governor.
The article which offended Raj Bhavan was part of a series on the sex scandal. By coincidence, it appeared days after Governor Banwarilal Purohit said there was widespread corruption in the appointment of Vice-Chancellors in the universities.
As Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin and others said that the Governor should take action instead of merely talking about it, the Raj Bhavan in a statement said he was only quoting charges made by leading educationists and others.
In the same breath, the Raj Bhavan also cited the arrest of a Vice-Chancellor, the Vigilance Police raids on two other VCs and the “unseating” of a third VC by the Madras High Court over irregularities in the recruitment.