This week, a Mumbai court issued summons to a prominent weekly magazine’s journalist and editor to remain present before it in April in a defamation case filed against them. The move comes almost a year after renowned freedom fighter Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s grand-nephew Ranjit Savarkar filed a defamation case against the weekly, alleging that they had “deliberately ignored facts” to defame Savarkar. “I want them to be punished as per the due process of law, so that nobody dares to write false things about Savarkar,” Ranjit Savarkar told The Sunday Guardian.

A year ago, a debate had raged in the country about awarding Bharat Ratna to Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, also known as Veer Savarkar in Maharashtra. The weekly had then carried an article questioning the move. It had questioned if Savarkar truly deserved to be honoured with the country’s highest civilian award. Soon thereafter, Ranjit Savarkar had moved court with a criminal complaint for defamation under Sections 34, 500, 501, 502 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The offence is compoundable, and is punishable with up to two years’ imprisonment, if proven.

“When Shamsher Islam wrote about Savarkar, he opined, gave his views. But this prominent magazine went a step ahead. The reporter produced false data and drew conclusion against Savarkar. Also, he should have sought our views before carrying the article. But he didn’t do so,” Ranjit Savarkar argued. The allegation was denied by Niranjan Takle, the journalist who wrote the piece. “I have not drawn any conclusions. I have not gone beyond anything. I have only reproduced what was written about him, and what I gathered from various archives,” he told The Sunday Guardian.

“Also, in the entire previous year, we haven’t received a single piece of paper or any legal notice. I came to know about this only when it was carried in the local media,” he added.

Responding to the allegation that he did not approach the family before carrying the article on Savarkar, Niranjan Takle said that he had gone to Savarkar Pratishthan thrice to meet Ranjit Savarkar. “Every time I went, I was told that he had gone to Murbad, and that he did not have a cell phone. As evidence of visiting the Pratishthan, I bought three books from there. I have the receipts with me,” he said. He also claimed that after writing the article, he wrote on his Facebook wall that he was willing to prove anything in his story in a court of law, if anyone had objections on it. 

In his application filed before the court, Ranjit Savarkar has outright rejected allegations that V.D. Savarkar opposed the Tricolour national flag, that he propagated the two-nation theory, and that he did not serve the nation after his release from prison. According to the application, the article stated that after his release, Savarkar collaborated with the British and opposed Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. Ranjit Savarkar has also said that though V.D. Savarkar wrote several applications to the British for his release, none of them had any apology.

“During his prolonged house arrest of 14 years at Ratnagiri, Savarkar was banned from political activity. So he directed his struggle against the social evils of the caste system and superstitions prevalent in orthodox Hindu society. In recognition and approbation of his single contribution to society in these 14 years, Karmaveer Bhaurao Shinde had remarked in his speech that ‘May God grant the remaining years of my lifespan to Savarkar’. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had also remarked that ‘I am happy that you are among the few people who believe in the eradication not just of untouchability, but of the caste system itself.’ As the detailed history of Savarkar’s immense struggle for eradication of untouchability is available to all, a detailed discussion of it is not merited. It is suffice to state that had Savarkar been a collaborator of the British, as alleged by Mr. Takle i.e Accused No. 1, numerous freedom fighters including Mahatma Gandhi would not have travelled all the way to Ratnagiri to meet Savarkar,” the application stated.

Ranjit Savarkar has further said in his application, “It is an irony of fate that such a brave, courageous, honest and great nationalist leader is openly defamed in a shameless manner by the accused persons without taking due care and examining authenticity of the so-called record maintained by them. The accused have deliberately distorted historical facts relating to the Late Shri Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and his freedom struggle. The accused persons have printed, published and sold the said defamatory article with mala-fide intention to create a hurdle in the process of award of the Bharat Ratna to Late Shri Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.

“The Complainant states that Accused No. 1 under the garb of making research of the work of late Shri Vinayak D. Savarkar, wrote a defamatory article… indicating his personal views that late Vinayak D. Savarkar does not deserve Bharat Ratna.”