In a huge embarrassment for the Chennai police, the Magistrate at the Allikulam court on Tuesday rejected the request to remand Nakkheeran editor Gopal over an article that appeared in the magazine in April. The court, after listening to arguments from the government's counsel and the journalist's lawyer, concluded that the sections slapped against Gopal do not hold any water.
Nakkheeran Gopal was apprehended by the Chennai police around 8.20 am on Tuesday, for an article on the Nirmala Devi case, which alleged that TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit had a role in the scandal. The cover story was from an edition on April 20-22. Acting on a complaint lodged by the Deputy Secretary to Governor, the police arrested Gopal from the airport when he was on his way to Pune. The police then booked Gopal under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with ‘assaulting President or Governor with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power’.
"The section had no relevance to the case in hand. We pointed out that as per Section 124, either the accused should have assaulted the Governor or stopped him from performing his duties in some manner," explained advocate S Arogyam, who was part of Nakkheeran Gopal’s legal counsel. "But that was not the case here. In addition to this, the article came out in April and the complaint has been belatedly filed, and it is not even the Governor named in the story who has raised objection.”
The court further allowed The Hindu's N Ram to present arguments as a representative of the media. He told the court that the sections in the case have been applied mindlessly.
"I provided supplementary arguments to what the legal team said. I pointed out first that such an arrest would set a dangerous precedent across India. The judge then asked about the photos used. I then said that the right to publish them is protected under the right to freedom of speech and expression. I finally said that the institution of the Governor should not dragged into this controversy needlessly," he said.
Following this, the Magistrate observed that there was no physical assault or direct intimidation in this case. He stated that Section 124 is not suitable and he therefore cannot remand the accused in this case.
Nakkheeran Gopal also spoke to the media for the first time today since he was detained and stated that the entire episode was a war against press freedom.
"I thank everyone who fought and it is clear that the court is in favour of press freedom," he said.