The Supreme Court on Friday stayed criminal proceedings brought by Madhya Pradesh Director General of Police Swaraj Puri against French author Dominique Lapierre and his publisher Shekhar Malhotra.
The defamation charges relate to Lapierre’s book “It was Five Past Midnight in Bhopal”, about the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices K.G. Balakrishnan and P.P. Naolekar issued notice to Puri and Javier Moro of a petition from Lapierre and Malhotra seeking transfer of the complaint outside Madhya Pradesh.
In the transfer petition, the French author said that Puri held a powerful position in the state, through which he could influence witnesses. It would not be possible to have a just and fair trial. In the interest of justice the complaint should be transferred to a competent court outside Madhya Pradesh.
Puri has filed a criminal complaint alleging libel against the French author and Malhotra in a Jabalpur court. The case was due to begin on September 26.
Puri claims that Lapierre had given a distorted account of the December 1984 industrial disaster, which killed thousands and left hundreds of thousands affected by poison gases that leaked from the Union Carbide factory. Lapierre did not correctly depict the role of the police, says Puri, who has also filed a civil complaint seeking compensation of $20 million and is seeking an order restraining the publishers from printing, selling and circulating the book.
The Jabalpur court has issued notices to the author and publisher on this petition.
BUY “IT WAS FIVE TO MIDNIGHT IN BHOPAL” HERE.