TN police’s double-standards on applying rule of law

Senior journalist R Gopal, editor of Tamil magazine 'Nakkheeran', addresses the media as he is being taken to court, in Chennai, on Tuesday. The weekly's website claimed Gopal was arrested based on a complaint from the Raj Bhavan over a write-up on Nirmala Devi, an assistant professor of a private college in Virudhunagar who had been arrested for allegedly prodding girl students to extend sexual favours to officials. PTI

The arrest of R R Gopal, editor of Nakkheeran magazine, for publishing articles linking the governor’s office with a sex scandal, within 12 hours of registering a complaint shows the “selective approach” of the Tamil Nadu Police in following the rule of the law.

While Gopal, research student Lois Sofia, activist Thirumurgan Gandhi and MLA Karunas were arrested within hours or days of registering cases against them, the police is yet to act against BJP leaders, S Ve Shekhar and H Raja, booked for casting aspersions on working women and using derogatory reference against the high court respectively.

However, the court stepped in Gopal’s case almost immediately and struck down the seldom-used Section 124 of the IPC. Though the court questioned the Tamil Nadu Police on why no action against Shekhar was taken as yet, it continued to be evasive on the issue but kept “applying rule of law” in other cases.

The police force has come under attack from various quarters in the past few months for quelling protests, using indiscriminate force like the Tuticorin incident which claimed 13 lives and showing “extraordinary” interest in arresting people who are critical of the state and the central government.

Shekhar, also a popular comedian, was booked in April for sharing a post on Facebook that had derogatory references to working women, while cases were filed against Raja in September for his action. The Tamil Nadu Police have come under attack from Opposition political parties on not acting against BJP leaders, but immediately arresting people from different ideologies after filing cases.

Sofia, the 28-year-old researcher, was arrested for shouting “fascist BJP down, down” at Tamil Nadu BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan within four hours of filing a complaint, Thirumurgan was picked up from the Bengaluru airport on sedition charges for flagging the anti-Sterlite protests in the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“In Tamil Nadu, justice system seems to be different for BJP leaders and others who oppose the BJP’s ideology. Why did not the law take its own course on BJP leader H Raja who made remarks against Periyar and also against S Ve Shekhar who made derogatory remarks against women?” DMK president M K Stalin asked.

Senior lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan charges the Tamil Nadu government of displaying “fascist tendencies as no law prevents journalists from exposing the governor or anyone."

The governor could have filed a defamation suit if he felt that the article was defamatory in nature but slapping a charge that deals with interfering in his functioning is just not done, the lawyer told DH.

“The Tamil Nadu government has been behaving like a fascist administration by preventing protests, cancelling permissions given to protests on the orders from the BJP government at the Centre. The governor is a BJP man and obviously you know why the arrest was made,” he said.

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TN police’s double-standards on applying rule of law

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