Supreme Court objects to use of term ‘Lottery Mafia’ by Mathrubhumi against Santiago Martin

Published on:

The use of the word “Mafia” by the Malayalam publication Mathrubhumi as an identifying characteristic for Santiago Martin, who operates lotteries, caused the Supreme Court to voice its concern on Friday.

The bench made up of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and A.S. Oka was hearing an appeal of the Sikkim High Court’s decision to refuse to quash the summons that were issued by a Gangtok magistrate against the managing editor, the managing director, and other senior officials of a Malayalam newspaper called Mathrubhumi.

The Supreme court said, “We cannot appreciate the use of the adjective.”

Mr. Aryama Sundaram, senior advocate, who was representing Martin, asked the bench to indicate in the ruling that the publication should issue an apology. He recommended placing the same story prominently and on the front page of the newspaper.

The Counsel for the Managing Editor said that the local newspaper only covered the statement that was quoted by Kerala’s finance minister. He submitted the complaint that had been lodged as a result in Gangtok, Sikkim, and that the managing director, managing editor, and joint managing editor had all been involved. According to the counsel’s claims, the case was purposefully filed in a far away state of Sikkim.

Justice Kaul then inquired about Martin to which the counsel replied, “He is the gentleman who runs the lottery. This gentleman has 23 CBI cases against him.”

After reviewing the complaint Justice Kaul said, “You also create problems by using adjectives that are not required to be used. There is nothing wrong with the statement if you don’t use ‘Mafia’.”

The bench argued that it cannot issue directions to the newspaper to apologize saying, “We will not force them, they will have to take a call. Otherwise they will say that the Court told us to apologize.”

“In defamation cases when some material is published the publisher also has to be proceeded against, the editor has to be proceeded against. Otherwise in the case of a book, a publisher can say that the author had written it, I had just published it…The editor has to clear an article and only then it is published,” said Mr Sundaram while responding to the argument that the newspaper had merely quoted the Kerala finance minister.

“This is their headline. The headline is an editorial headline, there it says ‘Lottery Mafia. The paper picks it up as the headline,” he added.

Mr. Sundaram argued it by saying that his client is a businessman operating a business that is protected by Article 19(1)(g).

He said, “The problem is north eastern states are running lotteries…Kerala wants to run its own lotteries, but does not like the lotteries run by north-eastern states.”

The next date of hearing is 9th December 2022.

Earleir, Santiago Martin had filed a defamation suit back in 2020 under Sections 499, 500, 501, 502 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code alleging that the publication had written some defamatory statement in their article. Martin claimed that the newspaper and its management planned to publish items in both the daily newspaper and its online edition in order to harm his name and reputation.