Free­dom at stake

The Gov­er­nor’s of­fice in­vokes Sec­tion 124 of the In­dian Pe­nal Code against Nakkheeran magazine ed­i­tor R.R. Gopal, but timely ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion saves the day for press free­dom.

FrontLine - - MEDIA - BY

IT is not ev­ery day that a mag­is­trate, who is in the low­est rung of the ju­di­cial hi­er­ar­chy, stands up to state power and pro­tects me­dia free­dom. In early Oc­to­ber, a lo­cal mag­is­trate cre­ated shock waves in Tamil Nadu by re­fus­ing to re­mand a jour­nal­ist ar­rested at the be­hest of the of­fice of the Tamil Nadu Gov­er­nor be­cause his magazine car­ried news items which were not to the Gov­er­nor’s lik­ing.

No whim of Gov­er­nor Ban­war­i­lal Puro­hit has ever been turned down by any­one in a po­si­tion of power in the State—he has been hold­ing re­view meet­ings in many dis­tricts (de­scribed by the be­nign term “fa­mil­iari­sa­tion”), rou­tinely con­duct­ing meet­ings with se­nior bu­reau­crats, and in­spect­ing projects. Not once has any Min­is­ter in the gov­ern­ment asked ques­tions as to why the Gov­er­nor is do­ing a job that they are sup­posed to be do­ing; in fact, Min­is­ters, when ques­tioned, have main­tained that it was good that mul­ti­ple in­spec­tions of projects were hap­pen­ing in the State.

On Oc­to­ber 9, when R.R. Gopal, ed­i­tor and pub­lisher of Nakkheeran, a Tamil magazine, left his home at Jani Ja­hanikhan Road, Roy­apet­tah, Chennai, with a sid­dha doc­tor to go to Pune to meet an ail­ing friend, he did not re­alise that he would be a me­dia sen­sa­tion in the next one hour. “The po­lice were there near my house but did not stop the ve­hi­cle in which I was trav­el­ling be­cause it was not my usual car,” he said, re­count­ing the drama that filled his day.


Nakkheeran Gopal, as he is pop­u­larly known, nor­mally trav­els around in a white Am­bas­sador, and the po­lice team near his house missed ar­rest­ing him there be­cause they were wait­ing for the Am­bas­sador to emerge from his house. Un­aware of this, Gopal reached the air­port and checked in for the 8:40 a.m. Indigo flight to Pune along with the doc­tor. He then chose to use the wash­room near the Com­mer­cially Im­por­tant Per­sons lounge “which is not used much”. As he was walk­ing to­wards the wash­room, Gopal said he no­ticed an In­tel­li­gence Bureau (I.B.) staffer hang­ing around. He ex­changed pleas­antries with the staffer. “Even at that time, I was won­der­ing why an I.B. guy was


hang­ing said.

As soon as he came out of the wash­room, an As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice (A.C.), Vi­jayaku­mar, re­quested him to wait as a Deputy Com­mis­sioner (D.c.)-level of­fi­cer wanted to “make an en­quiry” with him. “I said that the flight was at 8:40 a.m., and that it was al­ready past 8 a.m., and the A.C. said, no prob­lem, we will take care of it. In the next few min­utes, the Ad­yar D.C., G. Shashank Sai, along with about 20 po­lice­men in civil­ian clothes closed in on me,” he said. The D.C. showed no war­rant; he told Gopal that the en­quiry would take a bit of time and told one of his ju­niors to take Gopal’s phone. In the next few min­utes, Go- out there that early,” he

R.R. Gopal af­ter he was ar­rested on Oc­to­ber 9.

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