Despite all the braggart of the weekend – Trotter and a minister on television, a dozen other leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party to defend – Jay Shah, a businessman and the son of BJP president Amit Shah is no is presented at the criminal defamation hearing he filed against The Wire’s news website. His lawyer was not there, which caused the magistrate to postpone the case until later in the week. Shah would do well to dispense with the case.
The criminal defamation charge was filed Oct. 9, after The Wire published an article about the fortunes of several companies in Shah. One of them, the Temple of Companies, saw its turnover increase from Rs 50,000 in 2014 to Rs 15 to 80.5 rupees next year, just after Amit Shah took control of the BJP and that Narendra Modi was elected prime minister. The article also mentioned that this increase in revenues came despite the company losing 1.4 billion rupees that same year and also reported loans received by Shah companies.
Immediately after the publication of the piece, Minister of Rail Union and BJP High Leader Piyush Goyal offered a press conference denouncing the article and the caller without foundation, although he did not report any error in the room itself. Jay Shah then filed a criminal complaint against the wire claiming that he had highlighted certain facts “to make a spicy and selling story detrimental to the reputation of the plaintiff.” According to information, he also filed a civil defamation suit that required damages in the amount of Rs 100 million, although there is little information on this claim so far.
Criminal defamation is a deeply problematic tool that remains in law books in India and is frequently used to harass the media and suppress dissent. Its use in a case like this seems even more evident. The BJP came to power after a campaign against corruption and insisted that it was transparent and maintained an impeccable record of governance without any accusation against it. This is largely rhetorical because there have been credible allegations, but it is clear that the party is proud of this image, whether accurate or not.
In this spirit, the party should welcome the examination of its leaders and their families, since it is true that they have nothing to hide. In fact, the proper response to an article like this, especially as it relates to the immediate family member of the party chairman, could have simply been answered by opening the company’s books to everyone. Instead, Jay Shah’s lawyer not only challenged the article, but also told Wire that any report on these cases would constitute a violation of Shah’s privacy and would attract legal action.
The BJP also campaigned with the idea that Congress represented dynastic politics, something that would try to end. However, on Sunday we saw a cabinet minister trotting to defend Jay Shah, a private person, followed by many other BJP leaders through television. In addition, it turned out that the Department of Law made an exception and allowed the acting Attorney General to represent Jay Shah two days before the article was published. This could violate the rules. But more importantly, this again shows how members of the family of important leaders are treated as kings, even by a party that claims to oppose the dynasties.
If nothing else, this episode has shown how, despite its claims of probity, the BJP behaves like Congress or any other party when asked. It does not matter what the allegations are. The immediacy with which the party has used defamation and resorted to a cabinet minister to do so when the case refers to a private person, proves that the BJP promises to be a party with a hollow sound difference
“Until recently, atrocities were often motivated by caste consciousness, but the current wave seems to be guided by an ideology that expresses faith in a hierarchical social system, although they are not an occasional symbolic manifestation of chaste persistence and untouchability” writes Sukhadeo Thorat at the Indian Express. “It is this ideological impulse that may have revived and provided moral support for the denial of rights and the use of violence against Dalits.”