You're a public figure, have to face criticism: Supreme Court slams Jayalalithaa over defamation case

In a massive blow to authoritarianism, the Supreme Court on Wednesday severely criticised Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa, whose government has filed several defamation cases against her critics. "Accept that you are a public figure and you have to face criticism," Jayalalithaa was told by the top court during a hearing on the defamation case.

"No other state misuses the state machinery like the Tamil Nadu government," the bench noted. One of the defamation cases was against a report filed on Jayalalithaa's medical condition, to which the SC bench noted: "Defamation cases can't be slapped for merely reporting on the Chief Minister's health condition...You can't use defamation cases to throttle democracy. This is not done," the top court told the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. AFP

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. AFP

According to The Times of India, the top court added that the Tamil Nadu government should concentrate on good governance instead of filing defamation cases against those who criticise the government and the chief minister.

This is the second time in two months that the apex court has criticised the state government for the flurry of defamation cases. The Supreme Court last month had clearly stated that defamation cases cannot be used as a political counter-weapon against critics of the government.

It had also stayed the non-bailable warrants that were issued against DMDK chief Vijayakanth and his wife Premlata. The case against the couple was lodged by the public prosecutor of Tirupur district on the allegation that they made false remarks against the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and criticised the working of the state government.

"There has to be tolerance to criticism...defamation cases cannot be used as a political counter weapon. Cases for criticizing the government or bureaucrats create a chilling effect," the highest court of the country had said.

According to Hindustan Times, in the last five years, Tamil Nadu has filed 213 defamation cases against political opponents and media houses for "derogatory statements" against Jayalalithaa.

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Updated Date: Aug 24, 2016 13:13:42 IST

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