Hyderabad writer and social activist Vatsala Vidya Sagar on Wednesday filed a public interest litigation against the Telangana government's Government Order sanctioning Rs 15 lakh to IAS officer Smita Sabarwal to meet the legal expenses in a defamation case against English weekly 'Outlook.'
Urging the High Court to strike down the GO, the writer told the Times of India that this was a "sheer misuse of power by the state government and Smita, as the alleged news item in `Outlook' neither refers to Smita nor her actions in her official capacity."
Smita Sabharwal had earlier planned to file a civil defamation suit against Outlook asking for damages worth Rs 10 crore.
In a small write up in its 'Deep Throat' column titled 'No boring Babu', an Outlook piece had talked about how the only IAS officer in the Telangana secretariat was present at every meeting making a "fashion statement with her lovely saris and serves as 'eye candy' at meetings."
Though the report did not mention any names, Smita Sabharwal being the only woman IAS officer in the CM office lashed out at the magazine asking for an apology.
Outlook also carried a cartoon of the IAS officer walking on a ramp as a caricature of the Telangana chief minister holds a camera and politicians in the background winking and cheering her on.
The Central Crime Station (CCS) in Hyderabad registered cases against the management and employees following a complaint filed by Smita‚Äôs husband and IPS officer Akun Sabharwal. \
Cases were registered against them under IPC Section 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman), Section 67 of IT Act and Section 3 read with 6 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition Act) 1986.
The magazine later replaced the snippet with an apology where it said piece that the snippet was a satire, not intended to be derisive or derogatory, and was meant to be received in a lighter vein. "Outlook expresses regret if any offence has been taken," it read.
The Government Order issued on August 20 says that the IAS officer had requested the government to sanction Rs 15 lakh towards legal expenses, including the Rs 10 lakh deposit and Rs 5 lakh for additional legal charges.
The GO also stated that Smita should refund the money to the state if she succeeded in the defamation case.
However, Vatsala said that the GO failed to specify what would happen to the money if she lost the case.