In a surprise and unorthodox response to Asianet's story on Saritha Nairâ€™s allegations of sexual abuse by Kerala CM Oommen Chandy, the CM has filed a defamation suit against four journalists of two television news channels, accusing them of airing the news with the intention of defeating the Congress party in the upcoming Kerala assembly polls.
On Friday, a criminal defamation complaint was filed against Asianet News and Kairali News with the chief judicial magistrate of Ernakulam, in which five people including Saritha Nair have been named. The case will come up for hearing on May 28.
The defamation complaint names as first accused MG Radhakrishnan, Editor of Asianet News. The others named in the complaint are Vinu V John, senior news editor of Asianet News, Manoj K Varma, chief news editor of Kairali News and K Rajendran, senior news editor of Kairali News and Saritha Nair as fifth accused.
The complaint states,
"Accused 1 and 2 are responsible for the selection and telecasting of news items in Asianet news. Likewise, accused 3 to 4 are liable for selection and telecasting of news items in Kairali TV channel. Kairali TV channel is the mouth piece of the Communist Party of India which is in the fray for the oncoming elections. The said party is bent on ensuring the defeat of the political party represented by the complainant. Asianet News Channel is also an un-independent channel which is interested to ensure that the political party represented by the complainant, viz, The Indian National Congress does not win in the oncoming elections. It is with this intention that the first four accused have set up the fifth accused."
While the move in itself, seemingly inspired from the Chief Minister of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, has surprised many in Kerala, many are also wondering why Vinu V John of Asianet has been mentioned in the lawsuit.
The standard practice for defamation cases by the state government is to sue the Editor and the reporter concerned.
Vinu is one of the five Coordinating Editors of Asianet News and had nothing to do with the story. While he is a senior journalist, he is not after the Editor in the pecking order. He neither broke the story, nor anchored the news bulletin. Sarath Chandran was the anchor when the story was broken by reporter Joshi. Why has Vinu been named, then?
"He is a senior person in Asianet. This was the name given to me. And as per instructions, we filed the complaint," says G Shrikumar, Oommen Chandy's lawyer.
Sources in Asianet have told TNM that there is a strong possibility that the CMâ€™s legal team has randomly picked on an employee apart from the Editor for the case. "There have been instances when the CM's office was angry at him, wonder if that was why his name was randomly picked," said another journalist.