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Defamation cases filed by AIADMK

The district courts in Chennai has more than 150 criminal defamation cases filed by the state govt against opposition and media houses

Chennai: A principal sessions court in Chennai that heard the defamation case filed against Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) chief M. Karunanidhi on Monday has adjourned the case to 10 March.

Earlier, Karunanidhi had mentioned in a statement released on 15 January that he has rejected the advice of getting an interim stay order and will appear in the court personally. The 92-year-old DMK chief, referred to as Kalaignar, would definitely want to use his appearance in court as an opportunity ahead of the elections.

Filing defamation cases is not new to the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the principal sessions court in Chennai and other district courts has more than 150 criminal defamation cases filed by the state government against opposition, journalists and media houses for “criticizing" the Jayalalithaa government. The most recent ones include articles published on the reasons for the floods that ravaged the capital city.

• The Times of India and Tamil daily Dinamalar were sued by the chief minister J. Jayalalithaa on 4 January. The newspapers had reported that the administrative inefficiency delayed the opening of the sluice gates in Chembarambakkam lake, which led to the flooding in Chennai.

• Manthri Thantri, a series that appeared in Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan for 30 weeks critically analysed the work done by the ministers and the chief minister during the current regime. The final article on the series about the chief minister was reproduced in Tamil daily Murasoli, a DMK mouthpiece, in November. Karunanidhi is set to appear in court for the defamation case filed in this regard.

“We have been publishing the Manthri Thantri series for the past 30 weeks. This sort of a series is not new to Ananda Vikatan readers and a wide set of Tamil people have read it with great interest. During the previous regime, we had written a similar series on Karunanidhi and his ministers," R. Kannan, editor of Ananda Vikatan reacting to the defamation case, had said in a statement in November last year.

•Former transport minister V. Senthil Balaji sued Ananda Vikatan on the same Manthri Thantri series in July, days before being dropped from the cabinet and relieved of the party’s Karur district secretary post by Jayalalithaa.

•Finance and public works minister O. Panneerselvam filed a criminal defamation case in July last year against Tamil biweekly Junior Vikatan for allegedly publishing a defamatory article stating that an acquaintance to the minister was providing substantial funds to the ruling party.

•Tamil daily Dinamalar faced a defamation charge in April last year from the minister for food, Hindu religious and charitable endowments R. Kamaraj for reportedly publishing a defamatory article.

•Folk singer Kovan was arrested on 30 October last year and booked on sedition charges for uploading “defamatory" electronic content against Jayalalithaa and “disturbing" public peace. However, while granting him bail on 16 November, principal sessions judge N. Audinathan observed that the case was not one of defamation. During the proceedings, the high court also criticised the state government for charging Kovan under Section 66A of the Information Technology Act which has been struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

•In July last year, Rediff.com and Tamil bi-weekly Nakkeeran were charged with criminal defamations for carrying articles on Jayalalithaa’s health condition.

The Hindu, India Today, Outlook, Dinakaran (Tamil daily) and TV channels Times Now, CNN IBN, NDTV, Captain TV (owned by Vijayakanth), Kalaignar TV (owned by Karunanidhi’s family) are among the many other media groups that have faced defamation charges from the AIADMK government.

On 30 November last year, the Supreme Court constituting a bench of justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C. Pant advised the state of Tamil Nadu to stop taking criticism of governance as a personal insult while hearing a petition filed by DMDK leader Vijayakanth seeking protection against a criminal defamation case.

“This kind of cases is mostly coming from this state... Why," justice Misra asked the lawyer who appeared on behalf of Tamil Nadu. “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?" asked Misra according to a news report in The Hindu.

During Jayalalithaa’s previous regime (2001-2006), 120 criminal defamation cases were filed. DMK while in power from 2006 to 2011 filed nearly 40 defamation cases.

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