New Delhi: A civil court in Bengaluru has restrained the media from airing or publishing any “defamatory opinion” against Karnataka’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Virupakshappa and his son M.V. Prashanth Kumar, who are accused in a recent bribery case being pursued by Lokayuktha.
Judge Balagopalkrishna also came down heavily on the media, stating that the mere seizure of cash by Lokayuktha officials from MLA and his son during the raids cannot be the grounds to pronounce them guilty and to brand them as “rank corrupt”. Instead, he said the accused should be given an opportunity to defend their case, otherwise, he said, it would amount to their “character assassination”.
“The defendants are hereby temporarily restrained from airing or broadcasting or publishing or expressing any defamatory opinion against the plaintiffs in the news channels, public media and also conducting any panel discussions in any manner, till the next date of hearing,” the judge wrote in his order, according to Livelaw.in. The defendants in the case are news organisations The Times of India, Banglore Mirror, Deccan Herald, The Indian Express, The Hindu, NDTV 24×7, and Aaj Tak.
The Channagiri MLA, who was serving as the chairman of the state-owned Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Limited (KSDL), was raided on March 4 by Lokayuktha officials – the state’s ombudsman – based on a complaint accusing the legislator of corruption. An eye-popping mountain of cash worth Rs 8 crore, according to officials, was seized from his home and office. The officials also said they had also caught the MLA’s son red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 40 lakh in lieu of a tender from KSDL. While the MLA has been granted interim anticipatory bail by the Karnataka high court, his son was sent to 14-day judicial custody for accepting the bribe. The MLA stepped down as the chairman of KSDL with the allegations of corruption surfacing.
The latest order from the civil court came in response to MLA and his son moving the court for relief, claiming that the media outlets have been making “false and defamatory allegations” against them.
The legislator petitioned the court that the entire episode concerning corruption allegations against him and his son is the handiwork of rival parties which are conspiring to tarnish his image as his party wants to assign him a bigger responsibility ahead of the upcoming elections in the state. He accused his rival parties of “floating false news” against him and his family members.
The court in response said, “Whatever allegations made by various media, including electronic media, are baseless and without confirming themselves about the truth. Thus, if such broadcasting is continued, it is nothing but character assassination of the plaintiffs and also without giving an opportunity to the plaintiffs to explain the situations.”
While underlining that the dignity of plaintiffs was being compromised due to media reporting on the matter, the judge observed that “living with dignity is also a constitutional right”.
“No doubt, the media people can also make publications, if there is a truth. The same shall be subject to verification whether it contains truth or not and they should possess material. Merely, on the basis of the statement given by the persons, the defendants shall not broadcast news as per their whim and fancies in order to help the other wings. The constitutional right given to the media should not be misused by them,” he said, hitting out at the media.
The judge also went on to say that the media was broadcasting or publishing on the issue “only with an intention to harm the Good Will of Society and there is no bonafide in their act without ascertaining the truth”.
“Therefore, I am of the opinion it is a fit case to dispense the notice as contemplated under Order 39 Rule 3 CPC and grant ex-parte T.I,” the judge said, according to Livelaw.