07 March 2020, Saturday, marked the cross-examination of director Susi Ganesan in the 9th Metropolitan Magistrates court in Saidapet, Chennai. Susi has filed a criminal defamation case against independent filmmaker Leena Manimekalai, about her Facebook post accusing him of sexual assault published during the #MeToo movement. The case reached trial stage last week, presided by Judge Mohanambal S. Susi Ganesan himself took stand as prosecution witness 1.
Last Friday, 28 February 2020, was the first day of cross-examination. Leena Manimekalai’s lawyer Advocate Ramalingam questioned Susi Ganesan on the claims he has made in his complaint pertaining to his past accomplishments and film credentials. This included Susi Ganesan’s assertions about his position as a student leader while at university, his credentials as a journalist in Vikatan, and later as an assistant director to Mani Ratnam. Ramalingam received explanation and clarification of these claims on record. The next hearing was posted to 07 March 2020.
Yesterday, Ramalingam continued his cross-examination of Susi Ganesan, questioning him about Leena’s social media posts which he has presented as evidence. This includes posts criticising the BJP government for imprisoning Lois Sophia, condemning governor Banwarilal Purohit’s unwelcome physical contact with journalist Lakshmi Subramanian, participating in the #GoBackModi hashtag etc.
Susi Ganesan stated in court that he presented these as evidence to show Leena Manimekalai’s ‘mananilai’ (state of mind). He said that these documents are proof that Leena is the kind of person to call a constitutional authority — referring to the Governor — a sexual predator and the Prime Minister a thodanadungi (a derogatory term meaning coward).
Ramalingam established that Leena is simply one of the thousands of people who have raised objection to the Modi government and the Governor. Others who have done so include the DMK and MP Kanimozhi. These posts merely show that Leena is a politically conscious person who registers her comments boldly and openly. The court took this on record.
At this point, Susi Ganesan raised objection that Leena’s lawyer was being one-sided, offering explanation if convenient to them, but not listening to his own clarifications. The judge intervened to explain that during court proceedings prosecution’s lawyer will speak for their side, accused’s lawyer will speak for theirs, and she will review all matters in detail.
The cross-examination moved to the next evidence Susi Ganesan presented — a meme shared by Leena on her Facebook account. The judge asked the audience for the right Tamil translation of the word ‘meme’. After considering translations like “geli padam” and “geli chittiram” — often used as Tamil equivalent for the word ‘cartoon’ — she decided to accept ‘meme’ as a Tamingilam (Tamil + aangilam) word and took it on record.
The meme Leena had shared shows Russian film director Tarkovsky kissing Swedish filmmaker Bergman, with Goddard watching. Ramalingam asked Susi Ganesan what his objection is to the two men kissing. Susi responded that he has no objection, but presented this meme as evidence to show that Leena is the kind of person who enjoys watching two men kiss.
Also in evidence was an essay written in Vinavu, a Tamil magazine, critiquing Leena’s poems. When asked why he has submitted them as evidence, Susi argued that it is proof that Leena writes “aabaasa kavidhai” (pornographic poems), which the magazine found unpalatable. He also said that these are the same poems that Hindu Makkal Katchi protested against.
Ramalingam asked if Susi Ganesan believes that “aabaasam” is in the eye of the beholder. He replied, no. And added that Leena’s poems are “kangal koosugira aabaasam” (so obscene they irk my eyes). Ramalingam asked if he is aware of sculptures in Hindu temples featuring nudity and intercourse? Susi Ganesan admitted that he is aware of them, and then argued that in his eyes those are also obscene.
Finally, Ramalingam asked Susi Ganesan if he has published any formal denial of Leena’s accusations? He first said he does not remember. But later clarified that he has given several interviews to the press denying her accusations. Ramalingam asked if he has submitted them to court. Susi said he hasn’t, but he will if needed. The hearing ended here.
The court has posted the next hearing on 27 March, 2020, when Ramalingam will continue his cross-examination of Susi Ganesan. Advocate Alex from Susi Ganesan’s legal team said that they have five more witnesses to present. Their statement and their cross-examination will follow.
Featured image courtesy: DTNext