A criminal defamation complaint has been filed against Congress leader Shashi Tharoor before a court in New Delhi for his alleged "scorpion" remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his complaint, Delhi BJP leader Rajeev Babbar alleged that Tharoor with "mala fide intention made the statement which is not only abuse of the Hindu deity but also defamatory". He also said that being a vice president of the Delhi state BJP, he was "identified as a worker/ supporter of Narendra Modi and BJP" and that Tharoor's statement hurt his religious sentiment.
The complaint termed the statement as "intolerable abuse" and "absolute vilification" of the faith of the people.
"The speech of the accused had lowered down the credit and image of the complainant. The complainant was hurt and anguished as the intentional, defamatory and mischievous statement of the accused has lowered the reputation of the complainant in the eyes of others present there," the complaint said.
"The said unknown remarks which were allegedly made in 2012 were of no consequence at that time but today with growing worldwide popularity of Modi and BJP, the accused has deliberately dug out that buried statement to quote and make it relevant in the present context," the complaint said.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal Saturday listed the matter for consideration on 16 November.
"Accused's statement is not only false, rather an insult to all workers, supporters, the leaders.... The accused had deliberately made the statement intending to harm, knowing and having reason to believe that such false statement will harm the reputation of the workers/supporters of Narendra Modi and BJP," the complaint said.
Babbar also said that Tharoor "deliberately did this malicious act, intending to outrage religious feeling of Lord Shiva devotees by insulting their religious beliefs".
The complaint has been filed under sections 499 and 500 of IPC relating to defamation. If convicted, Tharoor may face a maximum punishment of two years in jail.
Meanwhile, a Hyderabad-based advocate has also filed a complaint against Tharoor on Saturday, saying he has hurt Hindu sentiments with his alleged "scorpion" remark against Modi, the police said.
A legal opinion would be sought as Tharoor's speech was made in Bengaluru, they said. According to the complainant, Tharoor's "comments hurt Hindu sentiments," the police said.
However, Tharoor on Saturday termed the complaint as "frivolous"and alleged that it was an attempt to "throttle the freedom of expression". Tharoor told reporters, "The charges are frivolous.... If we start to stifle the right of the people to quote published material then where would our democracy head? Where is the freedom of expression?"
Asked whether he felt the criminal defamation suit against him "is an attempt to throttle his voice", the Congress MP said, "Apparently it seems so."
Tharoor said that he had quoted an article published in a magazine in 2012 in which a comment of an unnamed RSS leader had been mentioned.
"So, why has this defamation suit been filed against me now? In my book, I as a writer had quoted 5,000 other examples and stories," he said.
"The fact is that environment of free expression, the liberty to quote what has been said at one time or another about prominent political personalities in a respectable publication (has been compromised). As far as I am concerned, if we start stifling the right of people to quote published material then where does our democracy head?" he asked.
Tharoor said he did not believe that he had done anything wrong or out of the ordinary and any author would have felt free to quote such published material in writing. "I have also quoted Modi's (sic) authorised biography by Andy Marino quite extensively. So it's not as if the 500-page book can be reduced to one line which this particular complainant doesn't like," Tharoor, also a writer and former diplomat, said.
"I am surprised to hear about the defamation suit. I hope the judge will throw it out on the grounds that this is the actual fact. But if not then certainly we have to defend it," he asserted. Tharoor alleged that courts "are now being used as an instrument of political persecution. If someone tries that, we (Congress) will respond."
Tharoor stoked a controversy Sunday while speaking at the Bangalore Literature Festival, claiming that an unnamed RSS leader had compared Narendra Modi to "a scorpion sitting on a Shivling" and terming it as an extraordinarily striking metaphor. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who condemned the remark, has alleged that Tharoor had disrespected Lord Shiva and sought an apology from Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
With inputs from PTI