Chennai: The Madras High Court Tuesday stayed an FIR filed against a New Delhi-based journalist for releasing a video alleging the involvement of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami in the 2017 Kodanad estate break in.
Justice Anand Venkatesh granted the stay for four weeks on further proceedings on the FIR filed by the Tamil Nadu police against Mathew Samuel, former managing editor of Tehelka and six others, including two accused in the robbery case — K V Sayan and K C Manoj.
The order was passed on a petition by Samuel and others seeking to quash the FIR filed under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).
On January 11, Samuel had released a 16-minute video in which Sayan and Manoj, sought to link Palaniswami to the April 23, 2017 robbery attempt at the Kodanad estate, the late chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s retreat home in the hilly district of the Nilgiris, a charge denied by the chief minister.
Following this, Sayan and Manoj were arrested by the police on January 14 in New Delhi and later produced before a court here which had released them on bail.
In a related development, a court in Nilgiris district headquarter town Udhagamandalam adjourned to February 2 a state government petition seeking cancellation of bail granted to Sayan and Manoj.
The two appeared before District Judge P Vadamalai as directed by him earlier.
The judge also ordered police to produce eight other accused on Feb 2 and said the plea for cancellation of the bail would be taken up then.
The government has moved the court, contending that the two accused were hampering the investigation in the case by their recent statements.
In the high court, Justice Venkatesh referred to various Supreme Court orders on sections 153 A and 505 of IPC and said the purpose of enactment of such provisions was to check fissiparous communal and separatist tendencies so as to ensure the dignity of an individual and unity of the nation.
He said since the common feature in section 153 A and Section 505 being promotion of feeling of enmity, hatred or ill- will between different religious or racial or linguistic or regional groups, it was necessary that at least two such groups should be involved.
The judge further said the present case raises an important issue as to whether any word either spoken or written against an individual will come within the purview of Sec 153 A if it does not promote feeling of enmity between groups.
This position must be clarified since it was noticed that the FIR was being registered for an offence under these sections in many cases which involve government authorities, particularly having political overtones.
These cases at the best only affects the interest and reputation of the individuals concerned and does not in fact cause any disharmony or promote any hatred between religion, race, community etc, the judge added.
He refused to accede to the contention of the public prosecutor that the expression “or any ground whatsoever” and “community” must be given an expansive meaning to even include words or signs or visible representation made against an individual so that it was brought within the purview of Sec 153-A.
The judge said the contention prima facie seemed far fetched and required a detailed consideration.
“This court is of the considered view that these words must be read ejusdem generis with the previous words used in the section, since those words constitutes a genus and discloses a category,” Justice Venkatesh said and posted the matter after four weeks.
On April 23, 2017, the security guard of the Kodanad estate was found murdered in the robbery attempt by a 10-member gang and it emerged during the probe that Jayalalithaa’s former driver C Kanagaraj and Sayan had allegedly plotted the crime.
A total of 10 people have been arrested in the case and a charge sheet has also been filed.
Later, Kanagaraj and Sayan’s wife and daughter were killed in separate road accidents during the probe, even as another employee of the property was found dead, in a case of suspected suicide.
After the video surfaced, Palaniswami filed a defamation suit in the high court against Samuel and others seeking Rs 1.1 crore as damages.
The court on Janunary 23 restrained the journalist and others from making any statement linking Palaniswami to the Kodanad estate case.