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AP High Court Quashes Case against BJP Leader Who Criticised TTD

Tirupati: The Andhra Pradesh High Court has quashed the criminal proceedings against Tirupati BJP leader, P. Naveen Reddy, in a defamation case filed by TTD.

The case had gained significant attention for its implications on freedom of speech and the reputation of TTD. It ended with Justice Venkata Jyothirmai Pratapa’s ruling in favour of Naveen Reddy.

The controversy originated in July 2021 when TTD, which administers the Sri Venkateswara temple in Tirumala, filed an FIR against Naveen Reddy under Section 505(1)(b) of the IPC. It related to Reddy’s posts on Facebook and WhatsApp, which the TTD claimed were damaging to its reputation.

According to the TTD’s complaint, Naveen Reddy’s posts on July 2, 2021, alleged that the state government improperly appointed a specific authority. This authority made hasty decisions, including outsourcing laddu counters at high costs, cancelling free darshan, inviting VIPs for special darshan, and profiting from trust darshan ticket sales, the posts had stated.

TTD claimed Naveen Reddy’s posts were malicious and that he was aiming to sow doubts among devotees about the fairness of the temple’s administration.

The police, instead of directing the complainant to approach the court for a non-cognizable offence, sought permission from the II additional judicial magistrate – first class, Tirupati, to investigate the matter.

In his defence, the BJP leader maintained that he had no intention of causing any fear or alarm among the public. His legal counsel presented an argument, pointing out Naveen Reddy’s history of filing Public Interest Litigations related to TTD administration, some of which had resulted in interim orders from the high court.

Justice Pratapa said the High Court found no evidence that Naveen’s social media posts were intended to cause fear or alarm among the public. The court determined that the “elements” of the alleged offence under Section 505(1)(b) IPC were not presented.

The judge noted that Naveen was a devotee of the temple and acted as a whistleblower by highlighting perceived irregularities, and he did so through legally sound channels.

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