The Madras High Court Monday gave a clean chit to a senior journalist two months after it deprecated a magistrate for allowing him to make submissions when the editor of a Tamil magazine was produced for remand.
Tasking the magistrate to file a report on why and under what provisions of law he allowed former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, N Ram to make submissions in the case, Justice Anand Venkatesh had observed in November that court proceedings should revolve around law and facts of the case.
"This Court does not find anything wrong with the procedure adopted by the magistrate and the submissions made by Ram in this case, had not in any way affected the decision taken by him (magistrate) since he (Ram) had not made any submissions on the merits of the case," the judge said Monday when the case came up.
The magistrate had, in fact, perfectly applied his mind and given scope for the police to collect further materials, and for that purpose, had got an undertaking from the petitioner to appear for interrogation as and when required.
The magistrate had not closed his mind and the openness in his approach is very clear from the fact that he had given liberty to the investigating officer to again approach the court after collecting sufficient materials.
He also ensured that Gopal appeared for interrogation before the police and also before the court at the time of hearing.
Hence, "this court does not find any uncertainty in the procedure adopted by the magistrate and he has, in fact, adopted the correct procedure," the judge said.
Justice Anand Venkatesh found no ground to interfere with the lower court order rejecting Gopal's remand and dismissed the criminal original petition from the police department seeking quashing of the rejection order.
The magistrate had rejected a police plea for remand, holding that there were no materials to do so.
In his report on November 26, the magistrate said he only asked Ram as to whether there were any previous instances where IPC Section 124 had been invoked against a media house for publishing an article.
Only after this query, Ram had given his opinion about it and he had also stated that such registration of an FIR will directly affect and interfere with the freedom of the press.
The magistrate was under the bonafide impression that he is entitled to call for such opinion in view of the provisions available under the Advocates Act and Criminal Rules of Practice.
"It is clear from the judgment of the Supreme Court that with the prior permission of the court, the magistrate can permit any person to speak in the court. In this case, the court was dealing with a very peculiar case where a publication had been made a subject matter of an offence under Section 124 of the IPC, which is unprecedented and which came up for the first time before the court," the judge said.
"This query was answered by Ram by touching upon the freedom of the press," the judge said, adding that the court did not find anything wrong with the procedure adopted by the magistrate and the submissions made by Ram.
Section 124 relates to assaulting President, governor, etc., with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power.
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