Chennai: Tamil weekly editor Nakkeeran Gopal today called on MDMK general secretary Vaiko to personally thank him for launching a protest to release him after he was arrested yesterday.
Speaking to the media, Gopal, who was arrested for allegedly writing defamatory articles regarding Governor Banwarilal Purohit, in his magazine Nakkeeran, in the Prof Nirmala Devi sex scandal, said he gained confidence on coming to know that Vaiko was holding a protest for his release.
For his part, Vaiko said he was worried that what happened to Gopal now could happen to anybody tomorrow.
Vaiko, who was denied permission to meet Gopal at the police station where he was detained, staged a dharna against the police action. He was detained and moved to a marriage hall before being let off later in the day.
In an embarrassment to Tamilnadu police, Gopal, arrested on a complaint from the Raj Bhavan walked free within hours after a court rejected the police’s plea for his remand.
Gopal was picked up by the police from the airport here before he could board a flight to Pune, officials said. As he walked free from police custody, Gopal thanked the court and the media fraternity for “standing by freedom of expression and freedom of press”.
He also thanked political leaders including DMK president MK Stalin for support. Gopal was arrested under Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which relates to “assaulting President, Governor etc., with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of any lawful power”.
Gopal’s advocate said application of section 124 was challenged in a city court where he was produced after arrest. “An assault on the Governor has two sides. One — use of force; two — stop him from discharging his duties. If force were to be used, they should have met at the same place. It has not been mentioned in the complaint how the Governor’s duties were affected,” Gopal’s counsel later told reporters.
He said the magistrate accepted the contention and rejected the police’s plea for remand.
Another counsel of Gopal, Shivakumar, told PTI said they planned to move the High Court, seeking quashing of this case. The court enlarged Gopal on bail on a personal bond.
Veteran journalist and former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, N Ram, also presented his views before the court deprecating the use of Section 124 in Gopal’s case. “This release is a great hope for freedom of expression and freedom of press. Nakkeeran’s work will continue,” he said.
Today’s police action followed a complaint from Raj Bhavan over publication of a series of articles in Nakkeeran related to assistant professor of Devanga College of Arts and Science, Nirmala Devi, who allegedly asked girl students to extend sexual favours to university officials in return for marks and money.
Nirmala, who taught at the college in Aruppukottai affiliated to the Madurai Kamaraj University, was later arrested. The scandal came to light in April this year after an audio clipping of a purported conversation between Nirmala Devi and some students surfaced.
Governor Purohit had rejected the professor’s claim which she purportedly made in the audio tape about knowing him and having access to him. Purohit insisted he did not know her. The Governor also ordered an inquiry by a retired IAS officer into the scandal in his capacity as Chancellor.
Gopal’s arrest was condemned by the principal Opposition party DMK and other political outfits which alleged an “undeclared Emergency” prevailed in the State.
Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan, however, claimed there was a “conspiracy” to falsely implicate the Governor in the sex scandal as several politicians feared their career could be doomed if the entire truth came out.
DMK chief M K Stalin, who met Gopal at the hospital where he was taken after arrest, sought withdrawal of the case and his immediate release.
Leaders of the PMK, CPI(M), CPI, Makkal Neethi Maiam leader actor Kamal Haasan, MDMK chief Vaiko were among those who slammed Gopal’s arrest.
The Madras Reporters Guild, Madras Union of Journalists and the Chennai Press Club condemned the arrest as “reprehensible, undemocratic and against the canons of free speech and expression”.