31 Aug 2023 9:01 AM GMT
While refusing to quash the proceedings against Bharatiya Janata Party's National Secretary H Raja for his derogatory remarks against EV Ramasamy, K Karunanidhi, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, officers of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department and their wives, the Madras High Court observed that Raja had a habit of making such irresponsible and damaging comments. “This Court...
While refusing to quash the proceedings against Bharatiya Janata Party's National Secretary H Raja for his derogatory remarks against EV Ramasamy, K Karunanidhi, Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, officers of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department and their wives, the Madras High Court observed that Raja had a habit of making such irresponsible and damaging comments.
“This Court must necessarily take judicial notice of the fact that the petitioner has the proclivity to make irresponsible and damaging comments and that is the reason why he gets into trouble. This Court is reminded of the sagacious words of Thiruvalluvar. To put it in simple English- Whatever besides you leave unguarded, guard your tongue; otherwise errors of speech and the consequent misery will ensue. This warning given by Thiruvalluvar perfectly applies to the petitioner,” the court observed.
Justice Anand Venkatesh also observed that when a person in power expresses anguish, he must be careful of every word uttered and must refrain from making reprehensible or scandalous remarks.
"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," the judge observed.
Tweets Against Periyar
Raja had made tweets against EV Ramasamy, known as Periyar, saying that the Atheist leaders statues should be broken and also addressing Periyar as a caste fanatic. The court noted that though every person was entitled to differ from views, thoughts and ideologies of Periyar, he could not cross the “Lakshman Rekha”, and make statements which directly affected the sentiments of people of Tamil Nadu who follow Periyarism.
“It is true that a person is entitled to differ from the ideologies and thoughts of Periyar. Pursuant to the same, it can also be expressed since 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 said.
Observing that the statements made by Raja will provoke the class of persons who follow Periyarism, and had the propensity to result in violence and disturbance to public order, the court said that the facts constituted an offence and refused to quash the same.
"This statement made by the petitioner clearly has crossed the limits and it is prima facie capable of causing disturbance to the public order. The tweet certainly hovers around hate speech.."
Tweet Against Karunanidhi And His Daughter
The court noted that since people of Tamil Nadu carry a lot of respect for the leader, the damaging messages against the leader would create a negative impact in the society and create disturbance in the State. The court also observed that Raja’s messages characterized the leader’s child as an illegitimate child.
The court observed that such a message had a negative connotation and outraged the daughter by portraying her in an insensitive manner.
“Such characterisation has a negative connotation and it virtually bastardizes the daughter of the former Chief Minister. Hence, such a comment/message will certainly cause disturbance and disruption in public peace. That apart, it also outrages the daughter of the former Chief Minister and portrays her in an insensitive manner intending to insult the daughter of the former Chief Minister. This is done through tweeting the message from the twitter account of the petitioner,” the court observed.
Noting that the messages tweeted by Raja bordered around hate speech, the court observed that though a person holding responsible post in a national party can comment upon policies and short coming of opposition party, the comments could not touch upon the personal character/status. The court added that words were powerful than swords and whereas the sword will cause injury to an individual, words could create a very serious impact over a large section of people.
Thus, the court dismissed Raja’s petition to quash the proceeding and ordered to transfer the case to the Special Court for MP/MLA cases, Erode.
Statement Against HR&CE Officials And Their Wives
The court observed that Raja’s remarks against the officers of HR&CE department was highly defamatory, scandalous and was in the nature of demeaning women.
Though Raja claimed that he had only expressed anguish and that the speech was taken out of context, the court noted that when a public figure expressed anguish, every word mattered.
Thus, finding that the statements made by Raja constituted an offence under the IPC and the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Woman Act, the court refused to quash proceedings against him. However, noting that there could not be a second FIR for the same cognizable offence, the court quashed the similar FIRs for the same offence and directed all the cases to be heard as a single case.
Case Title: H Raja v State
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 247
Click here to read/download the judgment (in case for comments against Periyar)