The media is Truth's savior, but when the media is at default
while projecting that which is prima facie untrue, it
makes the scenario even more damning for the complainant. And
when the accused involves the likes of Times of India,
the matter demands the resilience of David vs Goliath!
My aspiration in life was simply to be an accomplished painter-poet-writer
-- not a David! But when Dyaneshwar Nadkarni -- art-critic
of Times of India -- roughshodded his pen on March 26,
1978 -- by traversing beyond the purview of art criticism and
into an assassination of my character as a person and as an artist,
he awakened the David in me. However, a mere rebuttal
of the Times of India libel
by a rival paper would have suited my quest for vindication,
and it would have also been proportionate to my shoe-string budget.
But no rival paper was eager to confront the likes or looks of
R.K. Karanjia, editor of Blitz, was resounding in his
affirmation that I had a prima facie case of libel against
Times of India, but refrained from taking a public stand.
Other editors were not so exhilarated. One editor even went as
far as to rebuke me for embarking on the notion to sue the Times,
whose quarterly revenue -- in case I was not cognizant -- was
in the threshold of several crores!
To me, it was not a question of crores vs how many crows I had
perched on my rooftop. It was solely a matter of principles and
the integrity upon which one's principles were based. For Times
of India, it was putting to peril the very halo -- "Let
Truth Prevail" -- which crested its letterhead since the
paper's founding in 1838.
But as Deman Tujer Poddom
or Tu Deman Poddom would have it for me, on June 28, 1978
-- I found myself drawn as David before the Court of the
Judicial Magistrate (Trial Court), in Panjim, to square off with
Goliath. The legal marathon went on for 10 years, 2 months
and two days -- through the jugglery of nine judges and numerous
counsels on the part of the accused before Goliath was
found guilty and sentenced to seven days simple imprisonment
and a fine of Rs. 250.
The editors of the Guiness Book of World Records were
astounded by the circumstances of the case and by what, at the
material time, was the longest criminal defamation case in history.
However, they were disinclined to include the entry, and fearing
that their inaction might be challenged, they discarded, altogether,
the category relating to "Defamation Suits".
Despite the findings of the Trial Court and the overwhelming
evidence upon which the art critic, the editor and printer-publisher
of Times of India were first indicted and subsequently
convicted, the media maintained the erroneous stand that the
article had to do with a criticism of my art, thus fostering
the impression that I was merely being overly sensitive to such
An art critic should have the inherent ability to interpret art
with the faculty of wisdom rather than prejudice. His ability
to criticize should be as constructive as that of an artist to
create. In the realm of such conformity, an artist will be assured
his place in the spectrum of recognition no less than the art
- Nemesis notwithstanding, in 1991, Nadkarni found himself
precariously seated in the eye of a controversy involving allegedly
fake Aras which he himself had earlier for an undisclosed
fee authenticated as genuine Aras. Perhaps, a case in
point that karma has a way of eventually getting to those who
conceitedly think they have lasting hermitage and immunity in
the tentacles of power.
Secondly, it is one thing to be crucified for one's belief, but
to become the corpus for someone else's resurrection is
an abomination of the human spirit. While the protracted trial
turned my career into a rungless ladder, it became a fortuitous
ladder for those who came in close association with the matter.
- As for the malice in the subject libel, my earlier perception
was that it was no more than an isolated bout of Goanism. In the subsequent years, its
conpiratorial brotherhood became more manifest. Some from that
brotherhood have already been dispersed into the undefined corridors
of eternity. As for the remainder, they know unblessedly well
that I need no introduction to them. May they find peace and
contentment when condescending guilt finally becomes the pendulum
in the dark sky of their conscience.
- Lastly, since no legal matter can sustain a reader's interest
like a provocative story or novel might, the historical account
of the trial has been presented in a lighter vein through two
articles listed below, with appropriate links for the benefit
of those who wish to delve even further.
- Deman Tujer
Tujer Poddom - The Requiem