When a plaintiff was told by the court to stop seeking publicity

Voices Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 05:30
By Keerthi Prakasam| The News Minute! June 10, 2014 On Saturday, a court presiding over the hearing of the rape case filed by Kerala Solar Scam accused Saritha Nair against Congress legislator Abdullakutty reprimanded the latter for turning the session into something it was not meant for – publicity. Saritha, who is yet to give her statement, has been delaying her court appearance for a while now. Initially she was supposed to give her version on May 26, when she appeared before the court and asked for more time. In the next session, she did the same again. But this time around, she came out of the court and declared to the media that she had handed over her statement. The “lie” then snowballed into another controversy when Congress B group chief Balakrishna Pillai claimed he had a copy of Saritha’s statement in his possession. It finally took Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy to ward off further trouble by clarifying that no such statement, or its copy, existed. It looks like the court was taken aback by the entire episode. Last Saturday, the court remarked that Saritha did not have to be present to merely generate media publicity and from now on only her advocate Feny Balakrishnan could represent matters on her behalf. Like clockwork, the Malayalam news media covered this news item too. The Media’s Obsession with a “woman” accused Ever since the “solar scam” broke out in 2013, all media houses in Kerala have taken it upon themselves to unravel the mystery that is Saritha S. Nair. The accused Biju Radhakrishnan and his partner Saritha Nair swindled money to the tune of crores of rupees off people by promising them solar energy solutions. In recent months, the main accused Biju Radhakrishnan is a distant memory. The media obsesses over Saritha. Soon after the story broke, Asianet News went on a fact-finding mission to uncover who Saritha was. They tracked down her old teachers, friends, and neighbors who knew her. The teachers would recall what a bright student Saritha was, even as they expressed their dismay on recent developments in the same breath. After Saritha was released on bail, the media followed her relentlessly. Stories have ranged from the embarrassing to the ridiculous. A news channel reported that Saritha Nair’s efforts to become a philanthropist backfired when people failed to turn up at an event organized by her to distribute school bags and books to poor children. Another one recounted how during one of her temple visits, local residents gathered around Saritha for her autograph. On countless occasions the media failed to treat her as just another accused. Certain remarks made by the court when Saritha was in jail also did not help the situation. In one instance, it chided the government asking why Saritha, a jail inmate, was given special treatment since she came decked up in different sarees to the court. This issue became a matter of debate in every other household in Kerala. Saritha Nair broke away from the stereotypical woman accused of deception and fraud. This woman did not shy away from the cameras with a dupatta covering her face. This would be a first for the Kerala media. Her story was also unique. Saritha (allegedly) enjoyed access to the Chief Minister’s office and claims she can bring down some very powerful ministers (a recent unauthenticated report claims that, according to Saritha, the father of her child is a minister). Over the last one year, Saritha Nair stopped being an accused in a case. She became the figure that feeds the gossip section slots of news channels. Here was a woman who dared all and played brilliantly to the cameras, challenging men in powerful places and constantly weaving a web of stories that had the media hanging out to her every word. Yet the undiluted attention has reduced Kerala’s media reportage to a paparazzi-like frenzy. Thanks to such dedication, people have now forgotten what she was – an accused or a celebrity.

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