To the judge, Maridhas and I were same before law: Mathivanan
CPI(ML) leader Mathivanan comes out in support of Madras High Court judge who quashed the FIR against him for a Facebook post
“Justice GR Swaminathan in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court saw both Maridhas and me as the same before law. So, it is unnecessary to say he has right wing leanings,” said C Mathivanan, a CPI (Marxist Leninist) leader who was recently booked for a ‘joke’ on Facebook by the Tamil Nadu police and later released.
Maridhas, a YouTuber, was booked by Tirunelveli police for a controversial video, and it was Justice Swaminathan who quashed that FIR, too.
Mathivanan, 63, is the Madurai district secretary of the CPI(ML). On September 16, he, along with his daughter and son-in-law, went on a picnic to the Sirumalai hills. The family took a selfie and Mathivanan shared it on his Facebook page with a tongue-in-cheek comment in Tamil, “Thuppakki payirchikkaga Sirumalai payanam”, which translates to “A trip to Sirumalai for shooting practice”.
The Vadipatty police filed an FIR against him under various sections of the IPC including ‘criminal conspiracy’ and ‘waging war against the State’. Subsequently, Mathivanan was arrested and produced before the judicial magistrate. But Magistrate MC Arun refused to remand him and granted him bail.
Mathivanan then approached the High Court seeking to quash the FIR. Hearing the plea on December 17, Justice Swaminathan observed that being funny is different from poking fun of someone.
Too many ‘holy cows’
“Laugh at what” is a serious question, the judge said, adding: “We have holy cows grazing all over, from Varanasi to Vadipatty”.
“One dare not poke fun of them. There is, however, no single catalogue of holy cows. It varies from person to person and from region to region. A real cow, even if terribly underfed and emaciated, shall be holy in Yogi’s terrain. In West Bengal, Tagore is such an iconic figure that Khushwant Singh learnt the lesson at some cost. Coming to my own Tamil desh, the all-time iconoclast Periyar Sri EV Ramasamy is a super-holy cow. In today’s Kerala, Marx and Lenin are beyond the bounds of criticism or satire. Chhatrapati Shivaji and Veer Savarkar enjoy similar immunity in Maharashtra. But all over India, there is one ultimate holy cow and that is ‘national security’,” said the judge’s order.
He further said: “Revolutionaries, whether real or phoney, are not usually credited with any sense of humour (or at least this is the stereotype). For a change, the petitioner tried to be funny. Perhaps it was his maiden attempt at humour.”
Terming the FIR “absurd and an abuse of the legal process”, the judge said for an act to constitute a crime, there are four stages — intention, preparation, attempt and accomplishment.
“The judge said that there is no intention and no arms involved in this case. So, he quashed the FIR,” Mathivanan told The Federal.
‘Maoist and Marxist Leninist are different’
Having been in the field of politics and social activism for 40 years, Mathivanan said, he has many cases filed against him and often the police take him for inquiries. “There is a difference between a Maoist and a Marxist Leninist. The former has arms and the latter rejects arms and engages in politics,” he said.
Though the order has been welcomed largely, in some quarters it was criticised since the judge used the term ‘Tamil desh’ instead of ‘Tamil Nadu’. Commenting on this, Mathivanan said the judge could have been making fun of ‘nationalists’. “I think he made fun both of Tamil nationalists and Indian nationalists — because India is not a nation but a union of States,” he said.
He refuted the allegations that the judge has right leanings. “The opinions of Maridhas may be wrong. But he has the right to express his opinion. The judge ensured that. Similarly, in my case, the judge said — learn to laugh. He saw Maridhas and me as same before law. Like I am being a Communist, the judge may be a right-winger. What’s wrong in that? On that note, he never allowed his ideology to intrude in his profession,” said Mathivanan.