Madras High Court: In a criminal petition filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC') to quash the proceedings in relation to the speech made by Bharatiya Janata Party's National Secretary H Raja in a meeting held at Dindigul on 17-09-2018, wherein he made insulting and derogatory remarks against EV Ramaswamy (Periyar) , K Karunanidhi, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, officers of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department and their wives. N. Anand Venkatesh, J. while dismissing the petition, transferred the proceedings to the Special Court for MP/MLA Cases and directed the Court to complete the proceedings within a period of three months after the charges are framed.
Concerning the statements insulting Periyar. the social reformer of Tamil Nadu, the Court said that it is true that a person is entitled to differ from the ideologies and thoughts of Periyar. Such a freedom is guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The question is how far such an opinion should be expressed. The constitution itself provides for limitation under Article 19(2) and it cannot cross the line and become indecent or defamatory which will have the propensity to incite violence.
The Court noted that whenever the statues of Periyar are attempted to be defiled, it causes a lot of disturbance and sometimes it also leads to violence. Further, it said that the tweet that was circulated by H Raja certainly will provoke the class of people, who follow Periyarism and have the propensity to result in violence and disturbance to public order. It will constitute an offence under Sections 153, 504, 505 (1)(b) and 505 (1)(c) of IPC.
Concerning the tweet related to K Karunanidhi, former Chief Minister of State of Tamil Nadu and Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, the Court said that K. Karunanidhi is one of the most important driving forces of the Dravidian movement. The people of Tamil Nadu carry a lot of respect for this leader and any damaging messages on the leader will have a negative impact in the society and will certainly create disturbance in the State of Tamil Nadu. Further, the message also touches upon his daughter, who is a sitting Member of Parliament and the message on the face of it characterises her as an illegitimate child. Such characterisation has a negative connotation. Hence, such a comment/message will certainly cause disturbance and disruption in public peace. That apart, it also outrages Kanimozhi Karunanidhi and portrays her in an insensitive manner intending to insult the daughter of the former Chief Minister.
The Court said that a person holding a responsible post in a national party can comment upon the policies and shortcomings of the opposition party and its leaders. However, such a comment should not touch upon the personal character/status, and will have the propensity to cause disturbance in the society and may also lead to a law-and-order problem.
The Court remarked that words are more powerful than swords and whereas the sword will cause injury to an individual, words can create a very serious impact on a large section of people. Further, it said that H Raja did not realise that his comments in the tweet would result in the commission of a criminal offence.
The Court noted that H Raja has the proclivity to make irresponsible and damaging comments and that is the reason why he gets into trouble.
The Court noted that there is no serious dispute regarding the fact that such a message was tweeted from the twitter account of H Raja. Further, H Raja also did not refute that he did not send such a message, at any point of time. Thus, it said that the available materials certainly make out an offence against H Raja and there is no ground to interfere with the proceedings pending before the Court below.
Concerning the defamatory statement regarding officers of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department and their wives, the Court said that the statement by H Raja was highly defamatory, scandalous and it demeans women, since he has thrown mud on the wives of the Officials working in the Department. Prima facie, it is condemnable, and H Raja cannot be allowed to get away from what he has said.
The Court remarked that when a person expresses his anguish and such a person also happens to be a public figure, every word that is uttered matters. The expression of anguish should not result in making reprehensible and scandalous remarks against others. Further, the Court said that the statement made by H Raja, prima facie constitutes offence under Sections 294(b), 504, 509 of IPC read with Section 4 of Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, 2002.
Thus, the Court said that it will not interfere with the criminal proceedings initiated against H Raja.
[H Raja v State, 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 5795, Order dated 29-08-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Advocate R.C. Paul Kanagaraj
For Respondents: Additional Public Prosecutor M. Babu Muthu Meeran