CHENNAI: The Madras High Court Friday stayed all further proceedings in a defamation case filed against The Times of India by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for publishing an item on senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's letter to the Prime Minister on issues regarding fishermen in the state.
Justice V Ramasubramanian, before whom the writ petition filed by the Printer and Publisher of the Chennai Edition of the daily S Santhanagopal and Editor Sunil Nair came up for hearing, also dispensed with their personal appearance before the Principal Sessions Court, where the defamation case was filed.
The Principle Sessions Judge had on September 9 directed the Editor, Printer and Publishers of the edition to appear in person on October 30.
The matter pertains to a news item on the ownership of boats impounded by Sri Lankan authorities on charges of illegal crossing of International Maritime Boundary Line.
Assailing the criminal defamation proceedings, the counsel for the daily cited the Supreme Court rulings in earlier cases, that free speech was the foundation of a democratic society and free exchange of ideas, dissemination of information without restraint and dissemination of knowledge.
"As a free and independent newspaper, it is the duty of the press to report news and events in an impartial manner, and the news report in question was published only in that spirit, the counsel said.