The Madras High Court recently declined to quash criminal proceedings initiated against Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) organising secretary RS Bharathi over a speech made last year in which he had allegedly made disrespectful statements against members of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) as well as SC/ST High Court Judges (RS Bharathi v. The State and anr).
Justice N Sathish Kumar found, prima facie, that Bharathi’s speech implied that SC/ST Judges would not have been appointed to the High Court if it were not for the alms handed out by the DMK and former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, which is nothing but humiliation and insult to the oppressed community.
“The allegations prima facie show that such statement leads inference as if except the alms rendered by the Dravidian Progressive Federation, the members from Scheduled Caste would not have been become a Judge of the High Court. It is nothing but an humiliation and insult to the oppressed community. The entire statements made by the person are not in good taste,” stated the order.
The episode also prompted Justice Kumar to express disapproval over public leaders spitting venom against opponents in such speeches, instead of engaging in intellectual debate.
“Intellectual debates have been forgotten by the so called leaders. On the other hand, under the guise of freedom guaranteed under the Constitution, the persons claiming to be public leaders spitting venum against opponents. It has become routine affairs. Such debate is not good for the society or the younger generation. The leaders are required to engage with an intellectual debate and not on personal grudge,” the Court said.
The Court proceeded to dismiss Bharathi’s plea and direct the Special MP/MLA court to conduct the trial in the case expeditiously, on a day-to-day basis.
The case relates to a speech made on February 15, 2020, during the Kalaignar Vaasagar Vattaram function. While addressing a crowd of over 100 persons, RS Bharathi allegedly stated that the appointment of Justice A Varadharajan and seven to eight other lower-caste judges to the High Court were alms rendered by former Chief Minister and DMK head, M Karunanidhi.
An FIR was lodged over these remarks by one, Kalyana Sundaram citing Sections 3(1)(u) and 3(1)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Following this, an investigation was launched and a final report filed by the Police.
Bharathi was arrested by the police on May 23. He was subsequently granted interim bail. After a challenge to this interim bail was dismissed by the Madras High Court, Bharathi was eventually granted regular bail on June 1.
Later the Madras High Court also dismissed a plea to cancel Bharathi’s bail, emphasising that no case has been made out for the cancellation of bail or to do away with the principle that “jail is a rule and bail is an exception. All the same, the Court also sounded a note of caution that persons holding high office should be circumspect to avoid making remarks that may create disharmony among citizens.
The case is presently being tried by the Special Court No.1 for Trial of Criminal Cases related to MPs and MLAs of Tamil Nadu, Chennai.