Madras High Court upholds order refusing to remand ‘Nakheeran’ Gopal

The Madras High Court on Monday refused to set aside an order passed by Chennai Metropolitan Magistrate K. Gopinath on October 9 refusing to remand ‘Nakheeran’ Gopal in a case booked under Section 124, a provision that deals with “assaulting President/Governor with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power,” of Indian Penal Code.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh dismissed a petition filed by the State challenging the refusal to remand. He held that there was nothing wrong in the Magistrate having sought the views of N. Ram, Chairman of The Hindu Group’s publishing company THG Publishing Private Limited, when Mr. Gopal, Editor of Tamil magazine Nakheeran, was produced by the police for remand.

Observing that a lot of intellectual debate was required on the question as to whether a publication of news articles would attract the provisions of Section 124 IPC, the judge said, in such circumstances, the police ought not to have resorted to arrest on the very next day of registering the complaint lodged by T. Sengottaiyan, Deputy Secretary to the Governor.

Pat for Magistrate

Appreciating the Magistrate for having handled the case with equipoise despite a charged atmosphere that prevailed on the day of remand when the court hall was packed with lawyers, policemen and media persons, Mr. Justice Venkatesh said, the Magistrate had rightly sought the views of Mr. Ram, “a reputed and senior journalist,” to know if there were any precedents of media houses being booked under Section 124 IPC for publication of articles.

Mr. Ram too had confined his arguments only to the extent of such draconian action affecting the freedom of the press and did not make any submissions on the merits of the case. The judge recalled that the Supreme Court in Harishankar Rastogi vs Girdhari Sharma (1978) had held that courts can elicit the views of any person it deems fit in order to help it render justice.

On the other ground raised by the State that the Magistrate was wrong in directing Mr. Gopal to execute a bail bond despite refusing to remand him, the judge said, the Magistrate need not have ordered execution of bail bond only if he had come to a conclusion that the arrest itself was illegal. In so far as the present case was concerned, the Magistrate had not held so.

The Magistrate had refused to remand Mr. Gopal on the sole ground that the police had not collected and produced sufficient materials before the court for his remand. The case had been booked merely on the basis of the “ipse dixit,” of the complainant and the police had not been able to demonstrate how the publication of articles would prevent the Governor from discharging his lawful powers and duties and in what manner the articles had overawed him, the judge said.

Therefore, the Magistrate had rightly let Mr. Gopal free on executing a bail bond and given an opportunity to the police to collect the required materials. Such a course taken by the Magistrate could not be found fault with, he added. The judge also recorded his appreciations for Special Prosecutor A. Ramesh and Mr. Gopal’s advocates P.T. Perumal and P. Kumaresan for enlightening the court with their impressive arguments in deciding the present lis.

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