Justice PN Prakash, on allowing a plea moved by Rediff.com and on quashing the prosecution case on the file of the Principal District and Sessions Court, Chennai, said: “The press has a duty to keep the
public informed about the happenings in the administration of the State. If this freedom is stifled, rumours and gossip will masquerade as truth.”
Also pointing out that right to free speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is sacrosanct, the judge said: “This court does not find the impugned article to be defamatory of then CM Jayalalithaa in respect of her conduct in the discharge of public functions warranting the prosecution of the petitioners for the offence under Section 499 r/w 500 IPC.”
The government, in its complaint, alleged that the petitioners published an article on July 10, 2015, on their website titled ‘Chennai media knew Jaya’s health was not fine but kept mum’ which defamed the then Chief Minister.
However, Justice Prakash, on noting that except making general denial, there is no specific repudiation of these facts, because, none can hide a pumpkin in a morsel of food, said: “The whole world saw the
swearing-in ceremony of the ministers on May 23 and the ceremony lasted for not more than 30 minutes.”
“The fact that the CM was not well, was so obvious when 28 ministers took oath in two batches at a stretch, which was unprecedented,” he added.
He also held that the article does not refer to any particular ailment of the Chief Minister or make any disparaging remark about her health. The article states that the CM did not even attend the Iftar party in the first week of July and she issued a written statement saying that she was unwell.