Chennai: The Chennai police and the Raj Bhavan suffered a huge embarrassment on Tuesday as the magistrate at the Allikulam court rejected the police request for remanding Nakkeeran editor R R Gopal over an article against Governor Banwarilal Purohit in its April 20-22 edition. The senior journalist was arrested at the Chennai airport at about 8.15 am when he was just about to board an Indigo flight to Pune.
The 13th metopolitan magistrate S Gopinathan ordered Gopal’s release when he was produced in the court later in the evening, dismissing the plea of the government counsel seeking the detention of the senior journalist and holding that slapping section 124 of the Indian Penal Code against him was totally unjustified. The IPC section prescribes imprisonment of up to seven years to those found guilty of “assaulting” the President or Governor of a state “with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power...”
In ordering Gopal’s release, the magistrate stated that the publication of the article -it was a cover story on the Nirmala Devi case and had alleged that Governor Purohit was involved in that Madurai Kamaraj University sex scam - did not cause any assault serious enough to restrain the Governor from exercising his official duties. There was no physical assault or direct intimidation in this case, observed the magistrate while concluding that section 124 was misplaced in this case.
Emerging victorious from the court, Gopal’s lawyer S Arogyam told reporters that the defence had argued that section 124 was totally irrelevant in this case. They pointed out that as per this section, the accused should have either assaulted the Governor or stopped him from performing his duties in some manner, which was not the case now. Besides, the article came out in April and this complaint from the Raj Bhavan was made just now, said Arogyam.
The court conceded the request from N Ram of The Hindu to present arguments as a representative of the media. “I provided supplementary arguments to what the legal team said in the court. I pointed out first that such an arrest under section 124 would set a dangerous precedent across India. The judge then asked about the photos used. I said that the right to publish them is protected under the right to freedom of speech and expression. I finally said the institution of the Governor should not be dragged into this controversy needlessly,” Ram told the reporters outside the court.
Nakkheeran Gopal also spoke to the media after his release, thanking “everyone who fought” and also expressing gratitude that the court stood for the freedom of press....