Former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Monday criticised the move by six ministers in the Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa-led Cabinet to seek injunction orders from a court in Bengaluru against publication of any defamatory content against them, NDTV reported.
Health Minister K Sudhakar, Labour Minister Shivaram Hebbar, Agriculture Minister BC Patil, Cooperation Minister HT Somashekar, Youth Empowerment and Sports Minister Narayan Gowda, and Urban Development Minister Byrathi Basavaraj moved the court on Friday. A day later, the court restrained 68 media houses from publishing unverified or defamatory content against them.
The ministers, all recent defectors from Congress and Janata Dal (Secular), sought a gag order after their colleague Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned as the water resources minister. He was accused of sexually harassing a woman in return for a government job. Purported videos of the unidentified women and the minister, as well as some telephone conversations, were shared on social media. The videos were also aired by Kannada news channels.
The ministers referred to this incident in their submissions made to the court. Congress leader Siddaramaiah said the Bharatiya Janata Party has lost the “moral right” to rule the state.
“They [the six ministers] are under the fear that CDs which are there may be telecast,” he told reporters. “With this fear and apprehension, they went to court and got a temporary injunction. In their petition, they have mentioned there are another 19 CDs. That means to say this government has lost the right to rule this state. They have lost the moral right.”
However, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Ashwath Narayan told NDTV that the Congress was trying to divert attention by raising a matter which has no relevance. “If you look at the Ramesh Jarkiholi issue – the complainant, the victim – nobody has come forward,” he added. “Some activist has come forward and he has yesterday withdrawn... Even then, the party has taken a moral ground since it was in the public domain and ensured the concerned minister resigned without waiting.”
The social activist had on Sunday withdrawn his complaint filed against Jarkiholi. Dinesh Kalahalli’s lawyer claimed his client took the decision because the woman’s image was being tarnished on social media. He added that the activist will not bow down to political pressure.
The deputy chief minister defended the move to seek a gag order on the media from court, saying it was done to ensure that they did not become a “victim” in the case. “The apprehension is there,” Narayan said. “Nobody can be prevented from complaining if anything wrong has been done...But creating and bringing pictures, videos in public domain before anyone knows if they are true or false...They [the six ministers] felt this was a better way than becoming a victim of the situation or because of somebody’s high handedness.”