The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed criminal defamation proceedings against Union Minister L Murugan on a complaint filed by Chennai-based Murasoli Trust for his alleged defamatory statements at a press conference in December 2020.
Murugan’s plea challenging the September 5 order of the Madras High Court, which had refused to quash the proceedings, came up for hearing before a bench of Justices B R Gavai and P K Mishra.
The apex court, while agreeing to hear the petition, stayed the proceedings pending in a special court in Chennai against Murugan, Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting.
The bench also sought the response of the Murasoli Trust on his plea.
Murugan’s counsel told the bench the initiation of defamation proceedings was “completely illegal” and the complaint was filed with political motives.
Murugan had approached the high court challenging the proceedings against him.
The high court had noted in its order that according to the Trust, Murugan made the statements “with an ulterior motive to degrade and tarnish the reputation of the Murasoli Trust in the eyes of the general public”.
“While dealing with the quash petition, this court cannot go into the merits of the case or the disputed questions of fact. This court has to merely go by what is alleged in the complaint and prima facie find out as to whether the offence is made out,” the high court had said.
“In an offence of defamation, the statements have to be tested only from the point of view of a common prudent man, who comes across the defamatory statements made,” It had said.
While dismissing the petition, the high court had directed the trial court at Chennai to dispose of the case within three months.
“It is left open to the petitioner (Murugan) to raise all the grounds before the trial court and the same will be considered on its own merits and in accordance with law,” it had said.