The criminal defamation case was filed by the state government based on a complaint by Chennai Police Commissioner AK Vishwanath for alleged defamation of Minister SP Velumani.

Madras HC stays defamation case against Arappor Iyakkams Jayaram Venkatesan
news Court Monday, August 26, 2019 - 19:33

The Madras High Court has stayed the proceedings of a criminal defamation case filed by the Tamil Nadu government against Jayaram Venkatesan, convenor of anti-corruption NGO Arappor Iyakkam. Jayaram was accused of ‘defaming’ Minister for Municipal Administration SP Velumani in a television debate in December last year. The NGO, which has been at the forefront of highlighting numerous civic issues in Chennai and other districts, had alleged corruption by the Minister in September last year. 

In a TV debate on a Tamil news channel in December last year, Jayaram Venkatesan had accused the Minister of Municipal Administration SP Velumani of corruption. The accusation pertains to the tenders awarded by the Chennai Corporation. According to Arappor Iyakkam's exposé in September 2018, corporation tenders were awarded to a syndicate of six contractors owned and operated by people close to SP Velumani. 

The group also alleged that Vardhan Infrastructure, which was one of the six companies that won bids in Chennai Corporation, won tenders worth 88% of the total value of tenders floated by the corporation to source manpower to staff the Primary Healthcare Centres in Chennai. The NGO also exposed such tenders in Chennai and Coimbatore Corporations, in which the alleged close aides of Velumani alone competed amongst each other and won bids.

In an unusual move, the criminal defamation case was filed by the state government on a complaint by Chennai Police Commissioner AK Vishwanath. A civil suit has also been filed on the same issue. Stating that the Minister was an esteemed individual, the Minister's counsel argued that Jayaram’s remarks were “defamatory, scandalous, disparaging and highly provocative.”

Even as civil society members have rallied to the support of the organisation, it may be noted that Sathiyam TV, a Tamil news channel which aired a debate show with Jayaraman, in July this year went off the air from the government-owned Arasu Cable. It was later reinstated and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal fined the government cable service provider.

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