How many defamation cases has the Jayalalithaa government slapped on the media and opposition? The answer to the question has been provided by the TN government in a reply filed to the Supreme Court.
The Tamil Nadu government has told the apex court that a total of 213 defamation cases was filed from 2011-2016 when the AIADMK was in power.
Of the 213 cases, 55 were filed against the media.
Twenty-eight cases were filed against DMDK leader Vijayakant in the last five years,
A total of 48 cases were filed against DMDK, which includes 28 cases against the party leader Vijayakant himself.
Arch rivals DMK have the maximum number of defamation cases filed, with a total of 85 cases filed between May 2011 and July 2016.
A total of nine case were filed against PMK and 7 against the Indian National Congress.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy is on the list too with five cases filed against him for his tweets against Jayalalithaa.
The TN governmentâ€™s reply to the Supreme Court comes after Vijayakanth approached court to stay proceedings on a criminal defamation complaint filed against him by the Dharmapuri Public Prosecutor. Vijayakant had criticized Jayalalithaa at a public welfare meeting in October 2015 at Dharmapuri.
In July 2016, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C. Nagappan while asking for the list of defamation cases, had admonished Jayalalithaa and said, â€ś"For any criticism like corruption in the government or that one is unfit to run the government, you can't slap defamation cases."
The use of defamation as political tool is highly prevalent in Tamil Nadu. During her previous term (2002- 2006), the Jayalalithaa government filed almost 120 criminal defamation cases against the media. The DMK, often at the receiving end of these cases, then filed more than 40 defamation cases against the media during its tenure (2006-2011).
The first case filed by the current Jayalalithaa regime during her previous tenure was against The Hindu and Tamil magazine Nakkeeran in January 2012. This was for an article that termed the chief minister a Ëśbeef-eaterâ€ť. Nakkeeran had first carried the article, and The Hindu had published a translation.
In the last five years, not just the Chief Minister, but other ministers too have filed defamation cases. In February 2016, revenue minister R.B Udayakumar filed a complaint against The Economic Times for the article, â€śTN response to flood was slow, says central reportâ€ť.
From 2012 to 2016, several cases were filed against opposition leaders for their disparaging comments on Jayalalithaa or her government and against the media for reporting the same.
DMDK leader Vijayakanth, DMK leader MK Stalin and PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss all faced defamation cases over statements criticising the governmentâ€™s handling of the December 2015 floods in Chennai.
A case was filed against the Times of India for carrying a statement by Stalin; another against The Hindu for publishing an interview with Vijayakanth in which he alleged that the Chief Minister was retreating to her bungalow in Kodanadu, Ooty to take rest.
The government has also sued those who reported on political speculation. In August 2012, the Tamil edition of India Today had a defamation case filed against it for carrying a story on the cabinet reshuffle and for speculating how a minister was allegedly shunted out on Jayalalithaa aide Sasikalaâ€™s insistence. Tamil bi-weekly Junior Vikatan has been sued multiple times for interviews with people claiming to be Jayalalithaaâ€™s daughter, sister, etc.
Two cases were also filed against news anchors on TV channels for reading out lines against the government.
In September 2014, multiple cases were filed against BJP leader Subramanian Swamy for his tweets alluding that Sasikala had personal interests in ensuring that boats seized by Sri Lankan navy were not released. He had also tweeted that the TN government had given permission to hold a memorial meeting for LTTE's Thilappan in the state.