Lottery king defamation case: Sikkim HC upholds summons issued to Kerala newspaper Mathrubhumi

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The Sikkim High Court has upheld summons issued by a lower court in 2021 in a defamation suit filed by Coimbatore based lottery king Santiago Martin against Kerala-based Malayalam newspaper Mathrubhumi, stating editors can be prosecuted in such cases.

The case pertains to alleged defamatory statements, attributed to  the former Kerala finance minister TM Thomas Issac and alleged to have been published by the “Mathrubhumi‟.

Martin alleged charges of criminal conspiracy against the newspaper and KT Thomas under Section 120B of the IPC along with Sections 499, 500, 501 and 502 of the IPC. Judicial Magistrate (First Class), East Sikkim, at Gangtok, in a Private Complaint in 2020 took cognizance of the offences and summons were issued in 2021.

Challenging this order, the Mathrubhumi management and Issac moved the Sikkim high court . On September 8, a single-judge bench of justice Meenakshi Madan Rai upheld the order of the trial court and dismissed the petition. Several decisions of the Supreme Court were relied by the Court.

“In conclusion, in view of the preceding discussions, at this juncture, no grounds whatsoever arise for interference with the
impugned Order dated 02-03-2021 or the impugned Order dated 03-03-2021 vide which Summons were issued to the Petitioners,” read the operative portion of the Order.

Future Gaming owned by Martin has near monopoly in distribution of lottery tickets organised by north east states. It is worth noting that the Sikkim High Court on April 19 dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that alleged loss of revenue to the State of Sikkim in the backdrop of an invoice/bill dated 26th June 2017 while conducting lottery during the last agreement period entered into by the state and Future Gaming.

Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating multiple cases of money laundering by Santiago Martin and has attached several hundreds of crores with latest attachment of INR 173 crores on July 2. In April, ED attached properties worth INR 400 crores belonging to Future Gaming.