This is perhaps for the first time in Karnataka that a candidate standing for elections has approached court for a gag order on media. Forty-four media outlets in India and five global digital media companies have been temporarily prohibited from publishing ‘defamatory and derogatory’ content about BJP candidate Tejasvi Surya, who is contesting in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from Bengaluru South constituency. The candidate’s counsel had moved the city civil court in Bengaluru seeking a permanent injunction order to bar media outlets from publishing ‘defamatory and derogatory publications’ against him. The temporary injunction is till May 27, when the case will be heard by the court again.
City Civil court judge Dinesh Hegde has granted an ad-interim exparte temporary injunction. (An exparte order is one which is given after only one side has been heard). Noting that a #MeToo allegation against the candidate had surfaced only after he filed nomination, the judge has asked these media houses to reply to the notice before May 27.
"How all of a sudden these allegations against the plaintiff emerged immediately after he filed nomination for General Elections is a questionable question," the court said, adding that though defendants have freedom of speech and expression, that cannot violate the human dignity of life of any citizen.
A notice sent by Tejasvi Surya's lawyer to media outlets states, “Our client has instituted the suit against all of you... restraining you from publishing defamatory, derogatory publications as against our client." The notice names 45 media houses, from English and Kannada newspapers to various TV channels. The notice has also been sent to Google, WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook and Yahoo. "Needless to state here that any violation of the interim order would render you liable for serious repercussions and consequences thereof. In the view of the foregoing, you are not at liberty to publish any scandalous and defamatory statements or any fake news as against our Client.”
TNM reached out to Tejasvi’s counsel Sudharshan Suresh, who said that such an injunction became necessary following the nature of news coverage about his client following his nomination.
“There have been many defamatory and scandalous articles being published all over against him. So we had to get this injunction filed. There was news about him being a radical person, anything that would affect or tarnish his image within the right-thinking people in the society. That is just not done. Just after he filed his nomination, people started spreading canards about him,” the advocate told TNM.
Tejasvi Surya has been at the centre of controversy since his candidature was announced. The 28-year-old was chosen over Tejaswini Kumar, the wife of late Union Minister Ananth Kumar who held the Bengaluru South seat until his demise last year. While the state BJP leadership rooted for Tejaswini, RSS leaders in the state had backed Tejasvi Surya's candidature from the constituency. Sources in the BJP had told TNM earlier that the RSS and the BJP national leadership was of the opinion that Tejaswini Ananth Kumar was not an eligible candidate, especially if the party had to retain its bastion in the long run.
Shortly after he filed his nomination, several old controversial tweets of the young BJP leader surfaced on social media. Critics have also accused Tejasvi of making polarising statements in the past. In a tweet from 2014, which now stands deleted, Tejasvi Surya had said that he would dread the day the Women's Reservation Bill is passed. Another video in which he claims that "if people are not with Modi, they are anti-India" was also circulated after the news of his candidature spread. The Karnataka Congress also tweeted out a #MeToo allegations against him.