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Warning the Magistrate for ordering the registration of FIRs mechanically in cases related to “direct and clear implications on free speech”, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court set aside the criminal proceedings against K. Rajanarayanan (popularly known as Ki. Ra.) Tamil writer in the matter of allegedly insulting the scheduled castes community.

The interview published by “The Sunday Indian” magazine on 30th September 2012. Interviewer asked why he had not written on Dalit life, Rajnarayanan replied as he is not acquainted with their dialect, he did not attempt to portray their lives. It is this statement that the complainant found objectionable and sought issuance of directions under Section 156(3) of Cr.PC for registering an FIR against Ki. Ra. The court said that taking offence has become a fashion.

The court observed that the Ki. Ra did not have any intention to hurt anyone let alone the members of the scheduled caste as Ki. Ra. had completed 90 years of age and the magazine interviewed him to celebrate the same.

Justice GR Swaminathan also observed that although at the complaint stage the Magistrate is only concerned about the allegations made out in the complaint but in this case the said standard and yardstick cannot apply so mechanically even in the matters that have clear and direct implication on free speech. Quoting this the court said that taking offence has become a fashion. On this the court ordered the Magistrates to adopt a nuanced approach in such cases because it may choke fundamental rights.

The court also considered the fact that Ki. Ra has attained the age of 97 years, recently lost his wife and suffered stroke, thereby owing him the minimum courtesy court directed to close the criminal proceedings initiated against him.

— India Legal Bureau

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