Supreme Court Stays the Arrest of Shajan Skariah: Kerala’s Undeclared Emergency
In what can be seen as a significant blow to the Kerala Police and the state government, the Supreme Court today granted interim protection to Shajan Skariah, the editor of ‘Marunadan Malayali’. Earlier a criminal case was filed against Shajan, under the SC/ST Act for making ‘derogatory remarks’ against MLA P.V. Sreenijan.
“While his statements may be defamatory, they do not constitute offenses under the SC/ST Act. He may have made remarks against the complainant’s father-in-law, the judiciary, and others, which may be in bad taste,” the Chief Justice of India (CJI) remarked. The Supreme Court also noted that the caste status is not affected by the fact that the complainant belongs to the SC community and because the defendant made unpleasant comments. The bench consisted of Justice Chandrachud and Justice Narasimha.
This comes as a relief to Shajan Skariah and Keralites who have been anxiously monitoring the developments in the state, where the government and a couple of MLAs have openly threatened media outlets and targeted them for publishing reports that are not in their favor. It would be interesting to see the next moves of Nilambur MLA P.V.Anwar who has been posting relentlessly on FB and bragging about what he calls “Operation Clean Kerala” in reference to ‘cleaning up’ the state of media outlets that they are not in favor of.
Here’s a post he made 3 days ago, where he very proudly announced that 107 FIRs have been filed in various police stations across the state against various news portals. Have you seen any other state where the law enforcement agencies are misused in such a gross manner?
And here’s another mocking post he made, this time targeting Asianet news reporter Vinu V John. In a threatening tone, he indirectly suggests that Vinu John will face some legal action within a day or two, signing off the post with an intimidating ‘eda’.
He also made a similar post, threatening Karma News another news portal. Here’s the translation: “Each and every one at Karma News will face the same fate as Shajan Skariah. Soon you all will be behind bars. I dare you to stop this if you can. Yes, this is “Goondaism.”
During the last few days, the Kerala Police have been conducting searches and harassing several media persons whom they suspect to be in touch with Shajan and potentially hiding Shajan Skariah as well. G. Vaisakh, a reporter of Mangalam daily, stated that the police conducted an early morning search operation at his house, where he lives with his family, a couple of days ago. He mentioned that this was a traumatic experience for the entire family. Vaisakh also said that the police seized his mobile phone, despite him not being an accused in this case. He alleged that the purpose behind seizing his phone was to identify who among the police or government officials was leaking information to the media. In a complaint filed by Vaisakh, the Kerala High Court today criticized the police actions, emphasizing that the journalist’s fundamental rights were violated, and ordered the immediate return of the seized phone.
In the meanwhile, the Trivandrum Press Club submitted a complaint to the Kerala Director General of Police (DGP), alleging that supporters of P.V. Anwar have issued death threats to the Press Club President, M. Radhakrishnan. In the complaint, they mentioned that these threats came after Radhakrishnan protested against the police actions.
In another related development, it is now being reported that MLA P.V.Sreenijin on whose complaint actions were initiated against Shajan is likely to face action by the IT department in connection with unaccounted financial transactions with a film producer.
In another interesting development, the Kerala HC directed the Kerala state government to seize the excess land held by MLA P.V. Anwar and family. The petitioner reportedly has alleged that Anwar and his family are holding 200 acres of excess land in violation of Land Reforms law. The timings of the expected action by the IT department against MLA Sreenijin and the HC directions against Anwar are uncanny.
Shajan Skariah has received support from several prominent personalities in Kerala. However, people like Sreenijin and Anwar are in power, and they undoubtedly enjoy the backing of the state leadership. It is inconceivable that they would be able to exert such influence on law enforcement agencies without this support.
The current political atmosphere in Kerala is akin to an undeclared emergency. Is there a way out of this situation? Only time will provide an answer.