On November 28 last year, Gauri Lankesh — who was shot dead in Bengaluru on Tuesday — was convicted in two separate cases of criminal defamation brought by two BJP leaders against the Kannada tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike, which she owned, published and edited. The court of Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC-II) V L Amar in the north Karnataka town of Hubbali sentenced her to six years’ imprisonment, and fined her Rs 10,000 in each case. She was given bail while she appealed in a higher court.
In 2008, Gouri had published an article ‘Darodegilada BJP galu’ allegedly against Dharwad MP Pralhad Joshi, BJP leaders Umesh Dushi, Shivanand Bhat and Venkatesh Mestry accusing them of cheating a jeweller of Rs. 1,00,000.
According to Wikipedia, the article alleged that the jeweller sought justice from Joshi and threatened to approach police in case the MP refused to help him. Gauri later claimed that the article was based on “sources within the BJP”.
The two cases against Gauri Lankesh were filed by the three-term BJP MP from Dharwad, Prahlad Joshi, and his personal secretary Umesh Dushi in connection with an article published on Page 6 of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike’s January 23, 2008 issue, reported The Indian Express.
The article titled “Darodege Illida BJP galu (BJP men involved in criminal activities)” named three persons from Hubli — Shivnath Bhat, Venkatesh Mestri and Umesh Dushi — and alleged they were involved in cheating a businessman in the city. It also imputed Joshi’s involvement, and carried his picture.
Jagapur was the co-writer of the article. She was, however, the only accused named in Joshi’s complaint. The same court had incidentally acquitted Jagapur. Lankesh, though was found guilty because the court said she could not provide substantial evidence, but she managed to avoid arrest by getting anticipatory bail.
Lankesh told the New Indian Express, “The court’s verdict is a temporary setback to me, but I will challenge it in a higher court. Many people thought that I will go to jail, but I have disappointed them as I managed to get bail.”
The court in its judgement said that, “…It is essential that the persons who is responsible for publication should take good care and caution before publishing the articles… which tends harm the reputation of a person. The editor and publisher are bound to take due care and caution before making libellous statement… The first duty of the law is to protect the personal reputation and to adequately punish those who falsely and maliciously attempted to destroy [it]… The persons reputation is a property and if possible more valuable than other property (sic).”