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Defamation cannot be used as a 'political weapon', criticism must be tolerated, says Supreme Court

It directed the Tamil Nadu government to produce a list of all the defamation suits it had filed against its opponents for being critical of the state.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that defamation cannot be used as a political tool to silence criticism. The top court was hearing a petition challenging a non-bailable warrant issued against actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth and his wife Premalatha by a Tirupur court for allegedly libelous statements he made against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa ahead of the Assembly elections in the state, Mint reported.

A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said, "Anyone criticising or calling a government unfit cannot be slapped with a defamation case..."It amounts to curbing of free speech. There has to be tolerance for criticism. The defamation law cannot be used as a political counter-weapon," the bench said, according to IANS.

While directing the Tamil Nadu government to submit a list of all defamation suits it has filed against opponents for criticism, the court told the state government to refrain from filing such cases against rivals for every critical remark.

The apex court stayed the non-bailable warrant issued against Vijayakanth and his wife for not appearing before court in connection with a defamation case. Vijayakanth headed the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, which lost its state party recognition after receiving less than the required 6% votes in the Tamil Nadu elections in May.

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