Don’t report on BJP’s Satish Reddy, Karnataka court tells media houses

The legislator has sued eight media houses and Facebook for 'dragging his name' in the Covid bed allocation scam.

ByNidhi Suresh
Don’t report on BJP’s Satish Reddy, Karnataka court tells media houses
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A Bengaluru court has temporarily restrained over half a dozen media houses from reporting on Karnataka BJP legislator Satish Reddy, who has sued them for defamation.

Reddy claims that the news outlets have dragged his name in the Covid bed allotment case even though he is not named in the FIR, and is seeking Rs 20 crore in damages and a permanent injunction against “publishing, displaying, distributing” any stories against him. He’s also asking for a mandatory injunction to “remove or block” the news reports already published against him.

Taking up Reddy’s plea on July 26, sessions judge Veena M Naikar concluded that the MLA “has made out a prima facie case” against the media houses and went on to restrain them from “publishing, transmitting, displaying, distributing or in any manner permitting circulation of articles, reports, videos, etc through the internet or television or any other media” until they appear in the court.

Reddy’s suit names Bennett Coleman and Company, Times Internet, Printers Mysore, Spunklane Media, VRL Media, Pratidhvani, Manipal Media Network, and Samyuktha Karnataka. They run platforms such as the News Minute, Times of India, Vijaya Karnataka, Economic Times, Bangalore Mirror, Deccan Herald, Prajavani, Vijayavani, and Udayavani.

The suit also names Facebook India Online and Facebook Inc.

Claiming serious injury to Reddy’s “character and reputation”, the suit, filed on July 12, asks for the media organisations, which have not adhered to the “norms of journalistic conduct”, and Facebook, an intermediary, to be prosecuted under the Information Technology Rules 2021.

Story behind the suit

On May 5, 2021, as the second Covid wave was ravaging Bengaluru, BJP MP Tejasvi Surya, along with three of his party’s MLAs, barged into a Covid war room. Inside, he read out the names of 16 of the staffers, all Muslim, and alleged that they were involved in a “bed allocation scam”. They were, he alleged, fraudulently blocking the limited number of Covid beds in the names of people who didn’t need them, thus denying hospital care to those who actually did.

The BJP legislators accompanying him were Ravi Subramaniyam, Uday Garudachar and Satish Reddy.

Their allegations provoked a police investigation which found no evidence against the 16 Muslim men.

Three weeks later, the police arrested one Babu, 34, as the prime suspect in the alleged scam. Babu is reported to be a close aide of Satish Reddy, MLA from Bommanahalli.

A few days after Surya’s raid, a video emerged from a Covid war room in Bommanahalli that purportedly shows Reddy and three aides aggressively arguing with a health official and demanding beds. One of these aides, according to the Hindu, is Babu.

When the video became public, Karnataka’s leader of opposition, Siddaramaiah, demanded the arrest of Reddy and his supporters.

Reddy’s link to Babu

Reddy, in his defamation suit, alleges that while reporting on Babu’s arrest, the news outlets dragged in his name by highlighting that the legislator’s followers were involved in the alleged scam. This is defamation, he claims, because he isn’t named in the FIR or the chargesheet against Babu.

Although the court didn’t engage with Reddy’s claim that he was not associated with Babu, a senior police official anonymously confirmed to the News Minute that Babu was a “personal assistant” of the MLA.

Reddy wasn’t available for comment.

The next hearing is on August 27.

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