The Supreme Court today again reprimanded Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa for using defamation cases to “throttle democracy” and asked her to face criticism as she was a public figure.
“This is not done. You can’t use defamation case to throttle democracy. This is not healthy democracy. You must face criticism if you are a public figure,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan said.
“Government cannot use state machinery to file criminal defamation cases against political opponents. It should focus more on good governance,” the bench asserted.
The court’s observations came on a petition filed by DMDK chief A Vijayakanth seeking quashing of defamation cases filed against him by state government.
The apex court had on July 28 said defamation cases should not be used as a political counter weapon against the critics of governments and had stayed non-bailable warrants issued against the actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth and his wife Premlata in such matters.
Counsel for state government had submitted a report in which it said that 200 defamation cases have been filed in the last five years, of which 55 cases were against the media and 85 cases involved Jayalalithaa.
Over two dozen cases were filed against Vijayakanth and others for being critical of Jayalalithaa and her government.
The bench also issued fresh summons against the public prosecutor and posted the matter for further hearing on September 21.
Earlier, the apex court had said that anyone calling a government corrupt or unfit cannot be slapped with a defamation case.
It had said that cases relating to criticising the government or bureaucrats had a “chilling effect” and there has to be tolerance to criticism.
The court had also sought the list of defamation cases filed by the public prosecutors in Tamil Nadu on behalf of the Chief Minister against her critics.
Earlier, the apex court had issued notice to Jayalalithaa on a plea by Vijayakanth seeking stay on proceedings on criminal defamation cases filed against him through public prosecutors.