The Tamil Nadu Raj Bhavan on Friday defended its complaint against Tamil magazine Nakkeeran’s editor RR Gopal’s reporting of an alleged sex scandal at Madurai Kamaraj University. In a statement, the office of Governor Banwarilal Purohit accused the magazine of indulging in “yellow journalism”, or sensationalism, and denied any links between him and the college professor accused in the case.

On Tuesday, the Chennai Police had arrested Gopal based on the Raj Bhavan’s complaint. A court, however, refused the police’s petition seeking the editor’s custody and ordered his release. The court asked why the editor had been arrested for an article published in April. It also questioned why the police 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.

V Murugan, 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. He 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 the governor, 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.

Nirmala Devi was arrested on April 24 on charges of luring women who studied in her college into sex work.

Magazine employees seek anticipatory bail

Meanwhile, 35 Nakkeeran employees have applied for anticipatory bail after they were named in the first information report filed by the governor’s secretary, PTI reported.

In its statement on Friday, the Raj Bhavan alleged the magazine did not verify Devi’s initial statement. “There is only absolute falsehood and not a shred of truthfulness in the links attributed to the honourable governor or the Raj Bhavan,” the statement said.

“The statement given by her [Nirmala Devi] before the police will itself bear out the truth. This being the case, it is a matter of humour to hear people say that press freedom is being threatened on the count, of action, being taken under the law after much patience and tolerance to stop a slanderous, vulgar and cowardly way of attacking the first citizen of the state.”

Opposition to Raj Bhavan’s complaint

Journalists from the state expressed shock and anger at the “blatant illegality” of the Chennai police in filing the case against 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.

Political parties Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam also spoke against the action against the editor.