HC stays defamation proceedings against The Hindu

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Friday stayed all further proceedings before a sessions judge here in the defamation complaint filed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa against a leading national daily over publication of a report on her food habits.

Passing the interim orders on petitions filed by then Editor-in-Chief of `The Hindu` N Ram and reporter B Kolappan, Justice S Rajeswaran dispensed with their personal appearance before the principal sessions judge and ordered notice.

The petitioners have challenged the validity of IPC Sections 499 (defamation), 500 (Punishment for defamation) and 501 (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and prayed the court to declare them as unconstitutional as they "criminalised" the speech and expression made by a newspaper or other media which faithfully reports a news item or event.

They also challenged a government order of January 13 authorising the city public prosecutor to file the complaint against them for authoring and publishing the news item in the newspaper in January.

The petitioners submitted that the news item reproduced in the daily, which had been published in Tamil bi-weekly `Nakkheeran` was already in public domain with both the print and TV media `exhaustively` reporting on it and the subsequent events and incidents.

`The Hindu` had reported the same factually, accurately and truthfully, without any intention to malign or defame the chief minister as alleged by the city public prosecutor, they submitted.

`Nakkheeran` on January 7 had faced the wrath of irate AIADMK supporters who attacked its office and burnt copies over publication of the report about Jayalalithaa`s eating habits.