Days after the Chennai police arrested journalist Nakkheeran Gopal based on a complaint from the Tamil Nadu Governor’s secretary, the Madras High Court came down heavily on the police for registering cases under section 124 of the IPC – which relates to “assaulting the President or Governor with intent to compel or restrain exercise of any lawful power.” Justice M Dhandapani, who was hearing the anticipatory bail pleas filed by 35 employees working with Nakkheeran magazine, gave an earful to the counsel appearing for the police, and asked if the police knew the situations that warranted a case under section 124.
Nakkheeran Gopal, the editor of Nakkheeran magazine, had been arrested on October 9 on the basis of a complaint filed by TN Governor Banwarilal Purohit, for a story that the magazine had carried about the Nirmala Devi sex-for-cash university case; he was later released. On Friday, Justice M Dhandapani stressed that case must have been filed under sections 499 and 500 of the IPC – relating to criminal defamation – on the complaint given by the Deputy Secretary to the Governor, and not under section 124. He said that section 124 is applicable only when the Governor is blocked from going somewhere or blocked from doing his duties.
The Madras HC’s rap comes even as the Raj Bhavan has issued a statement justifying their complaint against Nakkheeran. The press release issued on Friday stated that Nakkheeran’s reportage linking the Governor, the Raj Bhavan and Nirmala Devi did not have “a shred of truthfulness.”
“It can only be a deep sense of hatred towards goodness and truth that could have driven any journalist to have written the articles in the manner they appeared in the Nakkheeran. It is a matter of regret that such utter falsehood and this kind of yellow journalism is being supported by respectable people who, it appears, are not aware of the facts,” the statement from Raj Bhavan said.
Nakkheeran Gopal was arrested for his reportage on the alleged links of the Governor in the Tamil Nadu ‘sex-for-cash’ case involving Nirmala Devi, a professor at the Devanga Arts College, that was published in the April issue of the magazine according to the remand report. However, the Raj Bhavan statement talked about a story on the same subject in the September issue of the magazine.
The Raj Bhavan statement denied the involvement of the Governor in the Nirmala Devi case and said, “It was indeed shocking to see a resurfacing of yellow journalism in an issue of the magazine Nakkeeran in late September after the charge sheets had been filed and all investigation completed.”
“Those who claim to be engaged in investigative journalism have not even bothered to verify the actual statement given by Tmt. Nirmala Devi before the police. The height of casualness and cowardice in journalistic ethics had been reached with the publishing of the article,” read the press statement.
Adding that there is no truth to the allegations published by Nakkheeran, the statement said that Nirmala Devi has never entered Raj Bhavan in the last one year and that she does not have any acquaintance with the Governor, the secretary or any of the officers working in Raj Bhavan. The statement also added that the Governor had not visited the guest house in the Madurai Kamaraj University.
Equating the reportage on the Governor by Nakkheeran to the days under the British rule till ‘the father of the Nation came to the fore to teach the people to resist fear and stand on the path of truth and goodness’, the press release said, “In a democracy there can be a healthy exchange of ideas. But no threats direct or indirect on a constitutional authority as the Honourable Governor will be tolerated. The Raj Bhavan can and will never be cowed down by actions aimed at hurting the dignity of the High Office,” the statement said.
Nakkheeran Gopal was arrested by the police when he was enroute to Pune on Tuesday, and the Allikulam Magistrate court refused to remand Gopal. The police had registered an FIR on Gopal under section 124 (assaulting the President or Governor with intent to compel or restrain exercise of any lawful power.) The magistrate refused to remand Gopal citing that the case under section 124 does not hold water, after which he was released.