K’taka court bars media from publishing defamatory news on BJP ministers

Bengaluru: A Bengaluru city civil court on Saturday issued an order barring 68 media houses from publishing or telecasting any defamatory news related to the sex-for-job scandal against six ministers from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government until the next hearing.

The order comes after ministers Shivaram Hebbar, B.C. Patil, H.T. Somashekhar, K. Sudhakar, Narayan Gowda and Bhyrati Basavaraj had approached the court on March 5 seeking to restrain media houses from airing, publishing or printing any defamatory news against them, Live Law reported. Every one of these six ministers had defected from the Congress-JDS alliance to join the BJP and had later won their respective by-elections.

 Earlier last week, Karnataka’ water resources minister Ramesh Jarkiholi resigned from his cabinet position following an alleged exposé by a social activist who released a video of the minister seeking sexual favours from a young woman in exchange for a job. The video was aired on all news channels in Karnataka as a ‘sex scandal’ or ‘sex-for-job scandal’.

Further media reports alleged that at least 19 more such CDs pertaining to sex scandals of MLAs will soon be aired, forcing the six ministers to file a plea against defamatory content. In a joint statement, the ministers said that the broadcast of such news is causing severe embarrassment to their families.

“Media channels in the state of Karnataka including social media platforms telecasted and published news titled as Sex Scandal of the State Minister Sri. Ramesh Jarkiholi alleging that the said minister sought favours from a woman promising her a job. Same was telecasted/published even before verifying the news, its sources and authenticity, resulting in Sri. Ramesh Jarkiholi resigning as minister,” it read.

The joint statement further talked about allegations that some media houses are telecasting/publishing news that several other CDs related to other MLAs, ministers that are present.

“In close heel of the same, it is alleged that some of the media houses are telecasting/publishing news that there are other CDs containing several sex scandals pertaining to MLAs, ministers and there are around 19 CDs of different MLAs and ministers including that of an influential politician from Old Mysore region,” read the joint statement.

The ministers argued in court that technologies like deepfakes must have been used to falsely implicate them. They also presented screenshots of telecasts from one of the news channels. Justice DS Vijaya Kumar, on examining the evidence noted that although the news channels have sensationalized the news on sex scandals, it looked like they haven’t received the CDs yet. Judge Kumar then passed an interim order noting:

“Till the next date of hearing, defendants/ opponents are hereby restrained by an interim-order of temporary injunction from broadcasting, telecasting  or publishing or letting in circulation or posting or accommodating or transmitting or circulating any defamatory news items or showing footages and pictures referring to the plaintiffs in relation to the alleged C.Ds. and committing any act or intentional omission which thereby causes character assassination of the plaintiffs on the basis of the unverified material.”

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