A court in Chennai refused to grant the police custody of Tamil magazine Nakkeeran’s editor RR Gopal, who was arrested earlier in the day after a complaint from Governor Banwarilal Purohit’s office, reported ANI. He was taken into custody from the Chennai airport when he was on his way to Pune, Nakkeeran reported.

The police had tried to charge Gopal under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with assault of the president or governor with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power. The Raj Bhavan had complained against the magazine’s reporting on the alleged sex scandal at Madurai Kamaraj University.

The court asked why the editor had been arrested for an article published in April.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief Vaiko was detained when he tried to enter the Chintadripet police station where Gopal was being held, ANI reported. “I sought permission to meet him but police are not allowing me,” Vaiko told reporters outside the police station. “This arrest shows the threatening attitude of the authorities towards independent journalists. Is there governor’s rule in the state? I blame the state government.”

After the court turned down the police’s request, Vaiko said: “It is a victory. It is a slap on Raj Bhavan. It’s also for spineless Tamil Nadu government, which acted upon governor’s wish. The court has judged well.”

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin described the arrest as incorrect, ANI reported. “I ask why has BJP leader H Raja, who had given provocative speeches in the past, not been arrested yet? Why is SVE Sekhar still free?” he asked.

Last month, several officials from a state government department filed a police complaint against Bharatiya Janata Party leader H Raja for making derogatory remarks against their family members. Raja also allegedly used derogatory words to describe the police and the judiciary. In April, a police complaint was filed against BJP leader S Ve Shekher for sharing a Facebook post that contained derogatory remarks about women journalists.

Meanwhile, journalists from the state expressed shock and anger at the “blatant illegality of the Chennai police in foisting a sedition case” on Gopal. In a letter to Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, an umbrella organisation of journalists, associations and unions demanded the immediate withdrawal of “false and foisted cases under draconian sections” against Gopal as well as others working at Nakkeeran.

“To casually slap a sedition case over an article amounts to serious and blatant abuse of power both by the Chennai police as well as the Governor’s office and smacks of autocracy,” said the letter. The journalists also demanded an unconditional apology from the Chennai Police, the state government and the governor’s office.

A senior faculty member of the Madurai Kamaraj University was arrested in April for allegedly luring students to provide sexual favours to senior varsity officials. V Murugan, an assistant professor, was accused of working with Devanga Arts College professor Nirmala Devi to lure young women.

In a leaked audio clip, Devi claimed that she knew Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit, who is also the chancellor of the university.

The magazine had carried a cover story alleging that Devi met Governor Purohit four times.

Purohit has denied any link with Devi. He had ordered an inquiry into the scandal by retired Indian Administrative Service officer R Santhanam.