The Karnataka Police have filed a First Information Report against the editor-in-chief of a Kannada newspaper for publishing an allegedly defamatory article about Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s son Nikhil Kumaraswamy, PTI reported.

Janata Dal (Secular) state secretary SP Pradeep Kumar filed a police complaint against Vishweshwar Bhat, the editor-in-chief of Vishwavani, for the article that allegedly “created an impression that there was commotion and confusion” between the grandsons of former Prime Minister HD Devegowda. The complainant said the “fictitious article” defamed Nikhil Kumaraswamy and his grandfather.

Bhat and his editorial staff have been charged for criminal breach of trust, cheating and defamation under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, the police said.

The report titled “Nikhil Kumaraswamy Raatri Rampata” (Nikhil Kumaraswamy’s night fracas) claimed that the chief minister’s son shouted at Deve Gowda, holding him responsible for “his defeat at the hands of a woman in Mandya”. Nikhil Kumaraswamy lost to an independent candidate Sumalatha in Mandya by over one lakh votes.

“You [Devegowda] got me tangled in the Mandya labryinth. In spite of having eight MLAs, we were not able to win,” Nikhil Kumaraswamy allegedly said, according to the report. “Didn’t HD Revanna gain the support of Congress in Hassan? Why weren’t you able to gain the support of Congress rebels Cheluvarayaswamy and Narendra Swamy?”

Reacting to the FIR, Bhat said the news report was based on sources. If anybody had any objection, they could have issued a clarification, which, he said, the paper would have carried diligently as it had done in the past instances. “I am not able to figure out which state we are living in,” Bhat told PTI. “I have been an editor for the past 19 years and never ever has such an incident happened. At the most, a defamation case can be registered, but registering an FIR is like setting a new precedent. I will definitely challenge it in court.”

The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) coalition bagged just two seats each out of 28 Lok Sabha constituencies in Karnataka. Gowda’s other grandson, Prajwal Revanna, won from Hassan Lok Sabha seat, while Congress candidate DK Suresh won the Bangalore Rural parliamentary seat. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party won 25 seats.

Opposition reacts

State BJP leader Shobha Karandlaje criticised HD Kumaraswamy for curtailing press freedom. Several other BJP leaders including BL Santhosh, CT Ravi, and Arvind Limbavali also took to Twitter to voice their anger and termed it as “Emergency in Karnataka”.

The development comes a week after HD Kumaraswamy had said that there was a need to bring in a law to regulate the media, particularly electronic media. He had said he stopped speaking to the media for the past one month because of their “irresponsible reporting”.