The Madras High Court on Tuesday stayed criminal proceedings against Narada News Chief Executive Officer Mathew Samuel and six others for releasing a documentary linking Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami with a break-in at J Jayalalithaa’s estate at Kodanadu in 2017, Bar & Bench reported.
Justice N Anand Venkatesh passed the direction after Samuel last week moved the High Court and asked it to direct the Tamil Nadu police to quash a first information report filed against him and the six others. The court on January 23 had restrained the seven accused from making any statements linking Palaniswami to the 2017 robbery attempt.
Samuel was booked under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code (promoting enmity between different groups), among other sections. According to his plea, this section could not be applied because nothing in the documentary or his January 11 press conference contained any statement made on the grounds of religion, race or place of birth, to constitute an offence under Section 153A. The journalist had released the video on January 11.
Justice Venkatesh observed that there was a need to clarify whether or not Section 153A can be invoked in cases not involving two or more religious, linguistic or other communities, but only involving state authorities or matters with political overtones.
“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 or cause and communities, it is necessary that at least two such groups or communities should be involved,” said the court, and posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
Unidentified men had killed a security guard during the robbery attempt at the Kodanadu estate four months after Jayalalithaa’s death in December 2016. Two months later, an accountant working at the estate was found dead at his house in Kotagiri.
Palaniswami had also filed a defamation suit against Samuel days after the journalist released the video, in which he interviewed two accused persons in the case, KV Sayan and Valayar Manoj. The accused had claimed Palaniswami was linked to the case.
Soon after the video was released, Opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had demanded Palaniswami’s resignation.
The hearing in the defamation case is scheduled to come up in the High Court on Wednesday.