Will continue to expose DMK even after I come out of jail, says popular YouTuber Savukku Shankar

With bail granted in four cases and the SC suspending his sentence in contempt proceedings, Shankar is expected to walk out of prison soon.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Nov 19, 2022 | 9:09 AMUpdatedNov 19, 2022 | 9:09 AM

Goondas Act on YouTuber 'Savukku' Shankar

Popular YouTuber Savukku Shankar on Friday, 18 November, said that false cases were foisted on him for speaking about the alleged “loot by one family in the name of Dravidian model of governance”, referring to the ruling DMK’s first family.

He added that he will continue to “expose” them once he comes out of the jail.

He made these remarks from inside a police van while he was being taken back to jail after a court hearing.

Savukku Shankar, political commentator and a fiery critic of parties like the DMK and BJP, was initially sentenced to six months imprisonment on 15 September in connection with the suo-moto contempt proceedings initiated by Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court for making objectionable remarks against the higher judiciary and the judge himself.

However, the Supreme Court on 12 November suspended his sentence while directing him not to make any comments or videos on court proceedings.

Arrest in four cases

Interestingly, just a day before his bail hearing came up in the Supreme Court, the Chennai Central Crime Branch’s Cyber Crime wing arrested him again in connection with four cases registered in 2020 and 2021. The arrest intimation was served to him at the Cuddalore Central Prison on 11 November.

This action of the police — arresting him in four cases so as to keep him in jail longer — led to many accusing the DMK government of vendetta as Savukku Shankar has been very strong in his criticism about the functioning of the government, certain ministers like Senthil Balaji and even Udhayanidhi Stalin, MLA and son of Chief Minister MK Stalin.

Several political observers even compared the DMK to the BJP, as the saffron party is also infamous for following the same modus operandi while going after its critics, one of the recent examples being that of Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News.

To Shankar’s relief, on 17 November, the Egmore Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court granted him bail in all the four cases. The court imposed conditions preventing him from commenting about the cases in question and also asked him to present himself before the investigators every day for 15 days.

With bail being granted in the four cases and the Supreme Court suspending his sentence in the contempt of court case, Shankar is expected to walk out of prison in a day or two after completion of formalities.

Related: Right-wing outfit demands arrest of stand-up comic Vir Das

Family, friends, fans allege vendetta by DMK

According to family members and close friends of Savukku Shankar, in addition to arresting him in four cases, the authorities also allegedly tried to mentally harass him while he was lodged in the prison.

From purportedly not allowing visitors to meet him for a brief period to not letting him interact properly with other inmates and taking away certain notes he had made, people closely associated with  Shankar told South First that there was an attempt by officials to harass him.

Moreover, Shankar’s mother allegedly received no response from officials despite her sending a representation to the chief minister requesting her son be transferred from the Cuddalore prison to the Puzhal central prison in Chennai.

According to sources, Shankar faced problems even when it came to fighting his cases legally.

“Even to argue his case, there was a problem in finding lawyers. The lawyers who wanted to help him were intimidated or forced to back off at the last minute. At least three lawyers who agreed to take up his case in Tamil Nadu decided to back off at the last minute due to some pressure. There were also attempts to intimidate the lawyers who appeared for him,” a friend of Shankar told South First.

There was also speculation that the police were “under pressure” to invoke the stringent Goondas Act against him. However, several people allegedly cautioned the DMK government against doing so and the plan was reportedly dropped.

Meanwhile, many fans of Savukku Shankar slammed the DMK government on social media platforms for its alleged vendetta politics.

Related: How stand-up comic Sumukhi Suresh is changing the narrative

Cases against Shankar explained

As for the contempt proceedings, it was initiated suo moto by Justice GR Swaminathan of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court over Shankar’s remarks that the “entire higher judiciary is riddled with corruption”. He made these statements during an interview to a YouTube channel on 22 July.

He had also tweeted against Justice GR Swaminathan, alleging that the judge had met “someone” at a temple, to imply that the meeting was somehow connected to the judge quashing an FIR filed against right-wing Youtuber Maridas for making controversial comments against the DMK government.

Contempt of court

Though questions were raised by several activists and others over the judge’s decision to initiate contempt proceedings against Shankar and he himself being part of the bench hearing the case, Justice Swaminathan went ahead and sentenced Shankar to six months imprisonment after he refused to express regret for his controversial comments.

Shankar did not engage a lawyer and pleaded his own case during the hearing.

“We would have closed the proceedings if the contemnor had realised his mistake and sincerely apologised. Far from doing so, the contemnor stuck to his position,” the court order read.

It further stated: “Nowhere did he express his regret or remorse. He did not offer any apology at all. On the other hand, he asserted that he was justified in making the charged statements. The bench was of the view that a reading of the charged statements would lead anyone to the conclusion that they are likely to lower the prestige and dignity of the courts and judges.”

The four new cases

With respect to the four new cases under which Shankar was arrested recently, two were filed in 2020 and two were registered in 2021.

Of this, one of the cases was registered on the basis of a complaint filed by G Prakash Kumar, a member of the AIADMK’s lawyers wing, against Shankar on 22 May, 2020, for posting an allegedly “abusive, defamatory and unsubstantiated” tweet against then chief minister Edappadi K Palanisamy, then deputy chief minister O Pannerselvam, former health minister Dr C Vijayabhaskar, MP OP Raveendranath and his brother VP Jayapradeep.

OPS EPS

OPS and EPS. (Supplied)

Another complaint was filed against him on 28 June, 2020, for tweeting a meme of former chief minister EPS and VK Sasikala. The complainant alleged that he posted a photo that was morphed and allegedly tried to instigate the public and other political parties to stage a protest against the then chief minister.

As far as the cases registered in 2021 are concerned, both were filed on 13 February in connection with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tamil Nadu.

In a tweet, Shankar had posted a picture of a confidential mail which was sent to the police regarding Modi’s tour schedule on 14 February, 2021, along with the caption: “Get ready guys #GoBackModi”.

Publishing a secret document containing details of Modi’s itinerary, according to the police, exposed the prime minister to serious security threats.

The second case was registered for another tweet Savukku Shankar had put out with a hashtag “#GoBackCowardModi” on 13 February, 2021.