Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Saturday said he was "surprised" by the criminal defamation complaint against him for his alleged "scorpion" remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as it questioned an author's right to freedom of expression and hoped that the baseless case would be dismissed forthwith.
Pointing out that he had quoted the remark of an unnamed RSS activist mentioned in a 2012 article, Tharoor claimed that he had done nothing wrong but was ready to defend himself, if at all a legal notice was sent on this matter.
"It was not my comment. In describing the relationship between the RSS and the Prime Minister, I quoted a 2012 article from a magazine called The Caravan, where an unnamed RSS activist made the comment to the journalist. So if at all there was a defamation it happened in 2012 and not now, and it happened from the RSS, not from Shashi Tharoor," the Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha member told reporters here after his party's interactive manifesto consultation programme.
"I was surprised to hear about the defamation suit. I hope that the judge will throw (it) away on the basis of the actual fact, but if not, we certainly have to defend it. If there is a legal process, we will let it play out. Nowadays our courts are being used as instruments of political persecution... if the judge issues a notice to respond, we will respond," he said.
BJP leader Rajeev Babbar on Saturday filed a criminal defamation complaint against Tharoor in the Patiala House Courts for his comment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "a scorpion seated on a Shivling" and sought Rs 5 crore as compensation.
Babbar told the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal that Tharoor made the statement with mala fide intention, which not only denigrated the Hindu deity but was also defamatory.
Stating that he has used hundreds of such quotes from different credible sources in his book, Tharoor said raising questions on people's right to quote from published documents was a blow to the freedom of expression in the society.
"My book has quotes, some of which are even 150 years old. So, will somebody now file defamation because I have quoted somebody saying something about 150 years ago?" he questioned.
"The environment of free expression and liberties to quoting what has been said at one time or another about political personalities is basic. When you start questioning the right of people to quote published materials, then where is our democracy heading to? Where is the freedom of expression in our society?" Tharoor said.
Tharoor, while speaking at Bangalore Literature Festival on October 28, had said: "Modi is like a scorpion sitting on a Shivling. You cannot remove him with your hand and you cannot hit it with a 'ch***al' either."
(With inputs from agencies.)