‘Charges Are Frivolous’: Tharoor On Defamation Suit Against Him
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Saturday termed "frivolous" the criminal defamation complaint filed by the BJP against him in a Delhi court and alleged that it was an attempt to "throttle the freedom of expression".
Delhi BJP leader Rajeev Babbar had earlier filed a complaint against Tharoor’s alleged “scorpion” remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said his religious sentiments were hurt by the statement.
The complaint, filed through advocate Neeraj, termed the statement an "intolerable abuse" and "absolute vilification" of the faith of millions of people.
According to NDTV, Tharoor was at the event owing to his recently released book – ‘The Paradoxical Prime Minister’ – and had said that the Prime Minister’s “personality cult” did not go down well with a lot of insiders in the RSS.
‘Attempt to Throttle My Voice’, Says Tharoor
Reacting to the defamation suit, Tharoor told reporters, "The charges are frivolous ... If we start to stifle the right of the people to quote published material then where would our democracy head? Where is the freedom of expression?"
Tharoor said he had quoted an article published in a magazine in 2012 in which a comment of an unnamed RSS leader had been mentioned. "So why has this defamation suit been filed against me now? In my book, I as a writer had quoted 5,000 other examples and stories," he said.
“The fact is that the environment of free expression, the liberty to quote what has been said at one time or another about prominent political personalities in a respectable publication [is not wrong]. As far as I am concerned, if we start stifling the right of people to quote published material, then where does our democracy head?” he said.
Tharoor said he did not believe that he had done anything wrong or out of the ordinary and any author would have felt free to quote such published material in writing.
"I have also quoted Mr Modi's authorised biography by Andy Marino quite extensively. So it is not as if the 500-page book can be reduced to one line which this particular complainant doesn't like," Tharoor, also a writer and former diplomat, said.
Instrument of Political Persecution
"I am surprised to hear about the defamation suit. I hope the judge will throw it out on the grounds that this is the actual fact. But if not then certainly we have to defend it," Tharoor asserted.
The complaint was filed under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code relating to defamation.
The matter is likely to come up for hearing next Saturday, 10 November.
BJP Wants Rahul Gandhi to Respond
Needless to say, Tharoor has the drawn the ire of the BJP, who have demanded an explanation from Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Tharoor had “almost abused the sanctity of Shiv Ling and Lord Mahadev.”
This is hardly the first time Tharoor has been embroiled in a controversy involving the RSS and BJP. Last month, he had said should BJP win in 2019, they would “tear up the Constitution and write a new one that would remove equality for minorities.”
(With inputs from PTI and NDTV.)