Malayala Manorama chief editor hails Kerala HC decision staying gag order

7 Feb 2018

A gag order issued by a lower court in Kerala restraining the media from publishing news involving the son of a legislator was against the basic principles of the Constitution, Malayala Manorama chief editor Mammen Mathew said here today.

Mathew hailed the decision of the Kerala High Court to stay the interim order recently issued by the lower court. In his petition filed in the High Court, Mathew had submitted that the sub-court had no powers under the Code of Civil Procedure to gag the media from reporting the details of the case. The sub-court judge of Karunagapally had issued the order on January 3, imposing restrictions on the media from publishing any defamatory statements against Chavara MLA Vijayan Pillai's son Sreejith. However, Justice B Kemal Pasha of the High Court had on Tuesday granted the stay while considering Mathew's petition challenging the interim gag order issued by the lower court.

"The right to know and inform is basic in our Constitution. Courts have upheld and protected this right all along," Mathew told news agency PTI. "The recent ban by a lower court in Kerala against publication of news in a financial fraud case allegedly involving a political leader's son was against this tradition and beyond its authority," the media person said. He said it was reassuring that the High Court of Kerala had intervened to protect the basic rights of the media on a petition by Malayala Manorama. Former Lok Sabha MP and media analyst Sebastian Paul also welcomed the High Court judgement. He said the swift action taken by it was laudable especially in the context of a "cold war" between lawyers and journalists in Kerala courts. "The gag order passed by the lower court was beyond the jurisdiction of that court. It was highly unconstitutional," Paul said. The High Court had held that the order issued by the sub-court seemed "illegal and against constitutional mandate".

The lower court had issued the order on the basis of a complaint filed by Sreejith alleging that his name was being misused in connection with a criminal case. Dubai-based JAAS Tourism had alleged that Binoy Kodiyeri, son of CPM Kerala state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, had cheated it of Rs 13 crore.