Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has sent a legal notice to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, seeking a public apology, for the “baseless and false” claims made by him in the run-up to the Assembly polls.
In the seven-page legal notice, Siddaramaiah has threatened to sue Modi for Rs 100 crore and file a criminal defamation case if he fails to apologise.
The other BJP leaders who have been sent legal notices on the same grounds include party National President Amit Shah and BJP's chief ministerial candidate BS Yedddyurappa.
The notice said that Narendra Modi has made several “defamatory and untrue statements” in his speeches during the election campaign. The notice alluded to the Navakarntaka Parivarthana Yatra held by the BJP on 5 February. There, Modi said, “Karnataka ki Congress sarkar 10% ki sarkar hai.” He added there that while the Congress government talked about ease of doing business, it only did “ease of doing murders”. In another instance, the notice says, Modi says, “Yahaan scams aur mafia ka nanga naach chal raha hain”.
Modi also alleged that a watch gifted to Siddaramaiah by a friend was a “kickback”.
“My client received the watch from his friend as a gift and paid the required tax for it and on the floor of the Karnataka Assembly declared the source of the watch and handed it to the Hon’bly Speaker to treat the same as an asset of the state,” the notice says.
It adds, “Despite this, with an intention to malign my client’s image, you, the 2nd noticee (Modi), have made such baseless, untrue and false remarks.”
The notice then goes on to talk about the ads placed by the Bharatiya Janata Party in various mediums “titled as ‘Sidda Sarkara’ containing false information and casting aspersions on the character and integrity of my client.”
It says, “Further in many daily newspapers both in Kannada and English across the state of Karnataka from the 28th of March 2018 advertisements are being published making statements knowing them to be false and only for the purposes of harming the image of my client and the Indian National Congress Party in the State Assembly Elections of Karnataka.”
The notice then lists the sections of the IPC under which the leaders have allegedly committed offences: “You (BJP leaders) have jointly and severally committed libel and offences punishable under Sections 499,500, 501 and 502 of the Indian Penal Code. Therefore, you are called upon to cease and desist from making such statements forthwith and give an unconditional public apology immediately through electronic, print and social media in which statements and advertisements have appeared.”
“In the event you fail to do so, please note that you have rendered yourself liable to civil and criminal action and payment of exemplary damages of Rs 100,00,00,000 (Rupees One Hundred Crores Only) and cost of this notice being Rs 1,00,000 (Rupees One Lakh Only) and my client shall initiate appropriate legal proceedings as per provisions of the law of the land at your cost and consequences thereof,” it adds.
The letter has been drafted by MLC Ugrappa, a close associate of Siddaramaiah.
“That you, all the above notices have intentionally and maliciously made knowingly false and defamatory statements against him. You have made these statements and published them knowing and intended to harm the reputation of my client and defame him,” it says.
This row comes after the BJP, in a similar fashion, had approached the court to stop Congress leaders from calling Yeddyurappa a “jailbird”. Currently, the matter is being heard by the Karnataka High Court.
The “jailbird” remark was made by Congress leaders on social media alludes to Yeddyurappa’s jail stint in the land denotification case.
At that time, notices were sent to CM Siddaramaiah, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee president G Parameshwara, Working President Dinesh Gundu Rao and the CM’s legal advisor Brijesh Kalappa, among others.
Notices were also sent to the Press Council of India and Broadcasting Council of India over publishing the same.
The Congress had then said that the court should not have notices on the matter as it was political banter.
The application of “jailbird” and “10% commission government” were generously used by both the political parties from early into the election campaign on social media and later on poll pitches across the state.
Speaking to TNM on March 16, CM’s legal advisor, Brijesh Kalappa had said, “According to me, the High Court ought not to have issued notices and asked for an explanation at all, because this is part of political talk. But now that the HC had issued notices, we will enter an appearance in the HC.”