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SC slams Jaya, says defamation cases cannot be used to throttle democracy

“This is not done. You can’t use defamation case to throttle democracy. This is not healthy democracy. You must face criticism if you are a public figure,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan said.

“Government cannot use state machinery to file criminal defamation cases against political opponents. It should focus more on good governance,” the bench asserted.

The court’s observations came on a petition filed by DMDK chief A Vijayakanth seeking quashing of defamation cases filed against him by the south eastern Indian Tamil Nadu state government.

The apex court had on July 28 said defamation cases should not be used as a political counter weapon against the critics of governments and had stayed non-bailable warrants issued against the actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth and his wife Premlata in such matters.

Counsel for state government had submitted a report in which it said that 200 defamation cases have been filed in the last five years, of which 55 cases were against the media and 85 cases involved Jayalalithaa.

Over two dozen cases were filed against Vijayakanth and others for being critical of Jayalalithaa and her government.

The bench also issued fresh summons against the public prosecutor and posted the matter for further hearing on September 21.

Earlier, the apex court had said that anyone calling a government corrupt or unfit cannot be slapped with a defamation case. It had said that cases relating to criticising the government or bureaucrats had a “chilling effect” and there has to be tolerance to criticism.

The court had also sought the list of defamation cases filed by the public prosecutors in Tamil Nadu on behalf of the Chief Minister against her critics.

‘No lifting cap on height of Dahi-handi pyramid’
New Delhi: In a blow to the organisers of the famous 'Dahi-handi' festival, Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to modify its order capping at 20 feet the height of the human pyramid in the ritual observed during 'Janmasthmi' across Maharashtra.

"No, we are not modifying it for the time being," a bench comprising justices A R Dave, U U Lalit and L Nageswara Rao said while declining the plea of a Mumbai-based organisation that capping of the height of human pyramid would take the "adventure" out of the festival which has become a "popular and competitive" sport in the western megapolis.

The court, on August 17, had refused to relax conditions put by the High Court like barring youths below 18 years of age from participating in 'Dahi-Handi' festival in Maharashtra and capping the height of the human pyramid at 20 feet.

At outset, the bench did not agree with the contention that the festival had the colour of popular sport and there should be no cap on the height of the pyramid in view of the fact that the court has already barred youth below 18 years of age from taking part in it. 
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