The Madras High Court today held that police were well within their powers to book sidelined AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran and 16 others for offences including sedition and dismissed a plea calling for records of an FIR registered against them for allegedly defaming the prime minister and the Tamil Nadu chief minister.
Dhinkaran and 16 of his supporters, including the petitioner, the party's Karnataka unit secretary V Pugazhenthi, were charged with issuing pamphlets opposing the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test in which they have allegedly defamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister K Palaniswami.
They have been booked for sedition, unlawful assembly and defamation among other offences in the FIR registered on September 29 at Annadanapatty police station in Salem district.
Justice M S Ramesh, who dismissed the petition, in his order said a perusal of the printed pamphlets/complaint, all the ingredients of Section124-A (sedition), 499 (defamation) and 500 IPC (punishment for defamation) have been made out.
"The pamphlets/complaints read, in any meaning, has attempted to excite the disaffection towards the central and state governments and has also attempted to bring the hatred and contempt against them."
Citing a Supreme Court order, Advocate General Vijay Narayan submitted that there was an interim direction to the chief secretary to ensure that there is no disruption to normal life of the state citizens and in case of any violation, the government was directed to book violators under the appropriate law.
Since one of the agendas mentioned in the pamphlet also relate to calling upon the protesters to agitate against the NEET, police were justified in filing the FIR, he said.
Moreover, the AG submitted that all offences including sedition and defamation have been clearly made out against the petitioner and others and since the issue is under investigation, he sought dismissal of the criminal original petition.
N G R Prasad, counsel for the petitioner, submitted that it was the fundamental right of every citizen to peacefully protest and demonstrate any action and "therefore in the absence of any violation, demonstration or protest, the offences cannot, by no stretch of imagination, be said to have been committed".
The counsel also submitted that the apex court order relied on by the advocate general was made in the background of an agitation over the NEET exam.
The pamphlets relate to birth centenary celebrations of AIADMK party leaders and the action said to have been initiated based on the apex court order is not sustainable, he said.
The judge, who dismissed the plea, in his order said "In the instant case, the pamphlet/complaint intends to harm the reputation of both Central as well as state governments."
The apex court in the Raghuvur Singh versus the state has held that distribution and circulation of seditious materials is sufficient to attract the provisions of Sec 124-A.
"I am unable to comprehend as to how the aforesaid slogans cannot prima facie constitute the offences of sedition or defamation," the judge said.
"The final sentences in the pamphlets/complaints calling upon the general public to demonstrate and agitate against the state government and central government on the issue of NEET examination are one among other slogans."
Since the pamphlets attempt to incite the public to protest and demonstrate, police were well within the powers to register the complaint in accordance with the directions of the supreme court, the judge said.
"Now, that this court has found that the complaint discloses the possible commission of the offences, it would not be appropriate to interfere with the investigation," the judge said, dismissing the plea.
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