CHENNAI: A magistrate court here on Tuesday refused to remand journalist R Gopal who was arrested on a complaint from the Raj Bhavan that certain articles in the magazine ‘Nakkeeran’, of which he is editor, were aimed at preventing Governor Banwarilal Purohit from discharging his duties.
The journalist was set free by the court after counsel representing him argued asking how news items in a magazine could prevent the Governor from discharging his duties. He said Section 124 (Assaulting President, Governor, etc with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power) of the IPC had been invoked in an irrelevant manner.
Gopal was arrested by Chennai police when he was at the airport in the morning. He was said to be headed to Pune. He was taken to Chintadripet police station where he was allegedly prevented from meeting others. MDMK chief Vaiko was arrested after being denied permission to meet him. Journalist unions and media houses condemned Gopal’s arrest as “draconian”, while DMK chief MK Stalin asked if “we are living in a democratic country or under a dictatorship”.
Zam Bazaar police had booked Gopal and 34 other staff of the magazine based on a complaint from Raj Bhavan, which cited a few articles published in the magazine. The articles were related to assistant professor Nirmala Devi who is alleged to have asked girl students at her college to extend sexual favours to certain university higher officials. Purohit had rejected Nirmala Devi’s claims, made in a telephonic conversation with the students, that she had access even to him.
The police complaint lodged by a Raj Bhavan official termed the articles an “attempt to overawe” the Governor and alleged that they aimed to “refrain from exercising his lawful powers as Head of the State”.
When Gopal was presented before magistrate S Gopinathan, his counsel P T Perumal argued that as some of the articles were nearly six months old, police should prove how they had restrained the Governor from exercising his powers.
N Ram, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, was also allowed to present his views. On hearing the arguments, the magistrate refused to remand Gopal to judicial custody and set him free. Perumal told media this was the first time in Tamil Nadu a journalist had been booked on such grounds. Gopal said the court’s decision reaffirmed the right to expression.P5