Journalist Nakkheeran Gopal released

Nakkheeran Gopal. (File photo. Source: Twitter/nakkheeranweb)

Senior journalist and editor of Tamil magazine Nakkheeran, R R Gopal, was on Tuesday evening released following his arrest for linking the office of Governor Banwarilal Purohit with a sex scandal involving an assistant woman professor of a private college, after a court refused to send him to judicial custody.

The 13th Metropolitan Magistrate S Gopinath directed the release of Gopal after striking down the seldom-used section 124 of the IPC that deals with “assaults or wrongfully restrains” on the President of India or Governors.

“Whoever, with the intention of inducing or compelling the President of India, or Governor of any State, to exercise or refrain from exercising in any manner any of the lawful powers of such President or Governor, assaults or wrongfully restrains, or attempts wrongfully to restrain, or overawes, by means of criminal force or the show of criminal force, or attempts so to overawe, such President or Governor, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine,” the law says.

Gopal, who is also the owner of Nakkheeran group of publications, was arrested on Tuesday morning following a complaint filed by Deputy Secretary to Governor & Comptroller of Household, Dr T. Sengottaiyan, seeking action against the journalist for publishing an article linking Governor’s office with the sex scandal in April. The complaint was filed last night, and Gopal was arrested this morning.

As Gopal’s arrest blew into a major political controversy with a galaxy of Opposition leaders, including DMK President M K Stalin, visiting the journalist at the hospital and court complex, the magistrate sought the opinion of senior journalist N Ram, who was also present in the court, on the charges.

Ram, chairman of The Hindu group of publications, told the court that admitting section 124 to be slapped against Gopal would set a “very dangerous precedent” not just in Tamil Nadu, but across the country. “I am not a lawyer, but the judge might have asked my opinion as an expert,” Ram later told journalists.

Emerging from the court, Gopal thanked the magistrate for “upholding the freedom of the press” and said truth always triumphs. “The court has stood for freedom of press and freedom of expression,” he said after the court released him.

Prof Nirmala Devi was arrested on April 16 for allegedly luring college girls to give sexual favours to top officials. Immediately after her arrest, Governor Purohit appointed R Santhanam, a former bureaucrat, to go into the incident and said he has no links whatsoever to the woman professor and had never met her. He had also called as “defamatory” and “baseless” reports that he had known the woman professor.

There was high drama outside the Chintadripet police station where Gopal was interrogated with MDMK chief Vaiko seeking to meet me. When police refused permission for Vaiko, he sat on the road leading to his detention.

The woman, in her conversation with the students, had said she was seeking favours for a “Governor-level official” and had referred to Purohit more than once. Though the one-member committee completed its probe, it was never made public due to a court order.

This is not the first time Nakkheeran has carried reports about the Governor and the Nirmala Devi case.

Nakkheeran, the bi-weekly Tamil magazine, had exposed large-scale irregularities and corruption in government department and faced numerous defamation case, especially during J Jayalalithaa’s tenure as chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

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Journalist Nakkheeran Gopal released

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