Chennai: The Madras high court has declined to restrain 'Arappor Iyakkam' and its convener Jayaram Venkatesan from holding any press meet, releasing or distributing any statement to print and/or electronic media or to any one against State Municipal Administration minister S.P.Velumani and nine contractors and the business carried on by them imputing the character or insinuating their reputation or linking their names with any persons or defaming their names in any manner.
Justice R.Subramanian dismissed the applications arising out of suits filed by S.P.Velumani and 9 other contractors, which sought interim injunctions.
"In view of the forgoing reasons, I conclude that the applicants have not made out a prima facie case for grant of an injunction, balance of convenience is also not in their favour, in as much as the respondents (Arappor Iyakkam) have raised the defence of justification and have also produced material which prima facie show that the publications made are not entirely false. In the result, all the original applications are dismissed. I must add that none of my observations contained herein above, shall have any bearing on the trial of the suits", the judge added.
The judge said on the facts of this case, it was clear that no mala fides could be attributed to Arappor Iyakkam. Although a feeble attempt was made by the counsel for the applicants to project that the entire publications have been made by Arappor Iyakkam at the instance of a rival political party, he find that there was no material to support the said contention. A photograph of Jayaram Venkatesan meeting the rival political party leader alone cannot be used to draw a presumption that the actions of Arappor Iyakkam stern out of malafides. Therefore, the question of malafides cannot be urged in the cases on hand, the judge added.
The judge said insofar as S.P.Velumani was concerned, he was undoubtedly a public servant and in a democratic set up his actions were open to microscopic examination by all concerned. He cannot claim immunity or right to privacy, in so far as, comments made on his official functions. "I hasten to add that the same shall not apply, if the comments made are regarding his private life. It is not his case that the publications/allegations made touch upon his private life. All the allegations made are only with reference to functions as a Minister, of course, according to him, those allegations are unsubstantiated and false", the judge added.
The judge said if the offending publications do not relate to the private life, the same cannot be said to invade the right to privacy or the right to be left alone. "I am therefore of the considered opinion that the injunction sought for cannot be granted on the ground that it invades the right of privacy of the applicants", the judge added.
The judge said there can be no doubt that the publications relate to the matters of public interest in as much as, the attempt was to bring out, what the Arappor Iyakkam term as corrupt practices in award of contracts relating to works by Municipal corporations which undoubtedly use public money. Therefore, it was crystal clear that the publications were made in public interest, the judge added.
The judge said many of the news items and articles reveal that substandard works done by the contractors have been stopped due to public participation and the contractors have been forced to mend their ways and carry out the work properly, according to the prescribed standards. This has become possible only due to the sustained campaign carried out by the Arappor Iyakkam and other likeminded persons. It was a common knowledge that in several parts of the city today, the level of the roads has gone over and above the houses and other buildings. This according to V.Suresh, counsel for Arappor Iyakkam was due to the relaying of the roads without proper milling being done.
Some of the articles show that public have taken keen interest in the works that were being carried out by the contractors and in some cases have been prevented the contractors from carrying out the work without proper milling. This kind of public awareness was possible only when the requirement of the work to be carried out by the contractors was brought to the notice of the public. This cannot be achieved if such persons who venture to bring out such irregularities despite the hostile atmosphere they face were gagged by orders of injuctions, the judge added.