The Madras High Court on Wednesday stayed further proceedings on an FIR registered against cartoonist Bala alias Balamurgan over a caricature depicting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami allegedly in a distasteful manner over a family suicide related to usury.
Passing the interim order on a petition by Bala seeking to quash the proceedings against him, Justice S S Sundar directed the state government to file its counter. The freelance cartoonist was arrested on November 5 on the basis of a complaint filed by Tirunelveli District Collector Sandeep Nanduri and released on bail by a court a day later.
A case was registered on November 1 under Indian Penal Code Section 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and under the Information Technology Act. Sandeep Nanduri and Tirunelveli city police Commissioner Kapil Kumar Sarathkar were also caricatured. The caricature which was uploaded on Bala’s Facebook page on October 26.
The petitioner contended that the FIR clearly showed that there was no criminal offence. He also claimed that the police had no jurisdiction to proceed with the probe without prior permission of the court concerned. The FIR was also against various Supreme Court rulings, he submitted.
The cartoon was uploaded days after a man and his wife set themselves and their two kids afire at the Tirunelveli Collectorate complex allegedly due to harassment by a money-lender.
While the woman and her two children died on the day of the incident on October 23, the man succumbed to injuries later.