news Thursday, July 16, 2015 - 05:30
  On Thursday morning, the Chennai City Public Prosecutor filed a criminal defamation complaint against Tamil bi-weekly Nakkeeran. The complaint was filed on behalf of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for an article suggesting that she needed a kidney transplant. This was the second such complaint filed on behalf of the CM, two days ago a defamation complaint was filed against for an editorial on Jayalalithaa’s health.   With the two new complaints, the current AIADMK regime which came to power in May 2011 has filed 110 criminal defamation complaints against the media and some against politicians at the Chennai District Court.   “Yes, we have filed 110 complaints in four years. A handful of the complaints are against opposition party leaders, but mostly we file complaints naming a leader and the channel or newspaper they run or own,” city Public Prosecutor Jagan told The News Minute.   In Southern Tamil Nadu, including district courts in Madurai, Tenkasi and Nagercoil, an estimated 20 complaints have been filed in the last four years.   Though no one is certain of the exact numbers in other district courts, complaints have been registered by ministers and other government functionaries against the media and the Opposition.   Criminal defamation has been used as a tactic by consecutive governments in Tamil Nadu (by both AIADMK and DMK) to take on the media and the Opposition.   Though some reports that have come under target were based only on gossip, often, complaints have been filed even against news stories or ones that questioned government policies.   The AIADMK government this time went a step ahead and filed cases against news anchors for reading out ‘anti-government’ news stories. The News Minute had earlier reported on complaints filed against newsreaders of Captain TV (channel owned by Vijayakanth), for reading out developments on the disproportionate assets case against Jayalalithaa.   During its previous term (2002- 2006), the Jayalalithaa government had filed almost 120 criminal defamation cases, mainly against the media. The DMK, often at the receiving end of these cases, also filed more than 40 defamation cases against the media during its tenure (2006-2011).   The numbers are quite mind-boggling and defamation is a costly affair. With the latest complaint, Nakkeeran will be facing a total of 212 cases in various courts, including 15 cases filed by the current regime, previous regimes and many by private parties.   In an earlier interview to TNM, Nakkeeran editor R Gopal had said, “In most cases, there is a court hearing or summons every 15 days or a month. Lawyers’ fees, court fees, everything has to be paid. Each time reporters from districts have to travel to other courts.”   Other complaints filed:   Complaint against Tamil newspaper Dinamalar for an article exposing how two government orders relaxing construction norms had allowed the builders to construct a 12-floor building on a narrow road. The building had collapsed killing 62 people.   The Chennai edition of The Times of India had a defamation complaint for an article on increasing number of accidents in Tamil Nadu, titled 'Tamil Nadu gives its drivers a license to kill '. The article was on increasing accidents in Tamil Nadu and poor punitive action against erring drivers.   Complaints against The Hindu and Nakkeeran in January 2012 for an article that called Jayalalithaa a ‘beef eater’. (Hindu had translated Nakkeeran’s article).   Complaint against The Times of India for carrying a statement by DMK leader MK Stalin; another against The Hindu for publishing an interview with DMDK leader Vijayakanth in which he alleged that the Chief Minister was retreating to her bungalow in Kodanadu, Ooty to take rest.   A complaint was filed against Tamil India Today for a speculative story that a minister was shunted out at Sasikala’s insistence in August 2012.   Tamil bi-weekly Junior Vikatan has been sued multiple times for interviews with people claiming to be Jayalalithaa’s daughter, sister, etc.   Times Now has a case against them by a noon meal scheme employee (under instructions from the Vellore Collector) for a report on rotten eggs in the meals.    No civil defamation suits   Although 110 complaints have been filed in Chennai since 2011, not a single one is a civil defamation case and asks for damages.   Criminal defamation under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) makes defamation a criminal offense, and Section 500 of the IPC prescribes the punishment as two years imprisonment or fines, or both.   The purpose of filing criminal defamation complaint is to ensure that the editor, publisher, reporter and others are summoned to court.    
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