DEFAMATION .. Kerala high court takes serious view of ‘fake’ reporting; bail after arrest for top TV personality, doctor


KOCHI: Law enforcement is apparently turning stricter in relation to defamation in the country. Caught in this situation is prominent TV personality from Kerala, N Sreekantan Nair and a doctor, both of whom have been arrested and enlarged on bail over a Covid-linked complaint. 

The Kerala high court action came close on the heels of a scenario in Delhi, where the Supreme Court has taken a serious note of some critical comments made against court/judges by social activist and PIL barrister in Delhi, Prashant Bhushan. Sreekantan Nair currently heads the 24 News Channel and has been a popular TV personality for the past quarter of a century with his unique styles of presentation and leading discussions on popular topics.

The arrests of Sreekantan Nair and doctor Shinu Shyamalan were recorded on Friday after a complaint said the news channel reported a fake news. What the channel reported was that an NRI who went to a private clinic in Thalikkulam contracted Covid-19. This, it was submitted before the court, was wrong news.

The arrests were registered on direction from the Kerala high court, at the Vadanappally police station, where they presented themselves on advice from court.

As per reports, the high court has granted the two anticipatory bail. Once a news is reported, it cannot be taken back if at all it is fake, and the damage thereof to one’s reputation is fake, it was pointed out. The doctor was arrested as he reported to higher authorities and the media that the person was tested Covid Positive.

Prashant Bhushan invited trouble by repeatedly criticising the Supreme Court and judges including the CJI Arvind Bobde. The apex court made it clear it will not brook such criticism as this would tarnish the image of the judiciary as a whole. Bhushan had, among other things, passed adverse comments against the CJI sitting on a brand new Harley Davidson two-wheeler without wearing a cap and mask, at Raj Bhavan lawns in Nagpur. It was a launch event.

Bhushan made the comment on twitter on June 29 and the case was registered on July 21. The apex court said two days ago that Bhushan must face the consequences for his actions.

The question of validity of a legal provision making contempt of court and defamation a criminal offence is being raised through several petitions. On Thursday last, the apex court had allowed withdrawal of a petition filed in this respect jointly by former Union minister Arun Shourie, senior functionary of The Hindu N Ram, and Prashant Bhushan. They jointly approached the court after the case against Bhushan came up.

They said they were withdrawing the petition in view of the other petitions already before the court vis-à-vis the criminality aspect in relation to contempt of court and defamation cases. In the past, these cases were not in the realm of criminality allowing arrests. IHN-NN


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