A freelance cartoonist was arrested today for a cartoon depicting Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami allegedly in a distasteful manner over a recent family suicide related to usury. Cartoonist G Bala alias Balakrishnan was arrested in Chennai by a special Tirunelveli District Crime Branch Police team led by an inspector, a police release said. Bala, 36, was arrested on the basis of a complaint filed by Tiruneveli District Collector Sandeep Nanduri, who was also caricatured in the cartoon along with the city police chief. Earlier, police sources had said the chief minister was also depicted allegedly in a distasteful manner in the cartoon whih was uploaded on a website on October 26. Protesting the arrest, Chennai Press Club announced a demonstration in the state capital tomorrow. “G Bala of Chennai has drawn distasteful cartoons about Tirunelveli District top officials and posted them on social media and in this regard the District Collector had given a complaint,” the release said. Based on the complaint, a case had been registered on November 1 under Indian Penal Code Section 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory) and under the Information Technology Act, it said, adding following investigation Bala was arrested. The cartoon was uploaded on a website on October 26, days after a man and his wife set themselves and their two kids afire at the Tirunelveli Collectorate complex allegedly due to harassment by a money-lender.
While the woman and her two children died on the day of the incident on October 23, the man succumbed to injuries later. The incident drew widespread condemnation from political parties and civil society groups over usury. Family head Muthu resorted to the extreme step as the money-lender was harassing him demanding more money despite him having returned Rs 2.34 lakh, including interest, for a loan of Rs 1.40 lakh, his brother had alleged.
The police had later arrested three persons, including the financier and his wife, in connection with the incident. After the incident, Palaniswami said the state had in 2003 enacted a legislation against charging of exorbitant interest rates by money-lenders. He had directed the district collectors and police officials to act swiftly on any complaint related to usury.