The Supreme Court on Wednesday criticised the J Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu for the number of defamation cases filed in the state. A bench of the court headed by Justice Dipak Misra observed that the state had the highest number of criminal defamation cases filed in the country, including through the use of the public prosecutor’s office, according to a report in The Hindu.

The bench said that cases had been filed even against reports on the chief minister’s medical condition, adding that it showed the “state’s control over the sanctioning authority and prosecutor’s office in filing defamation cases” against political opponents and the press. The court went on to say that public figures needed to accept criticism “instead of using state machinery” to curb it. “This is not the sign of a healthy democracy,” Misra said.

The bench’s observations came over a week after the Tamil Nadu government provided the apex court with a list of defamation cases filed by the office of the public prosecutor over the last five years. According to the daily, cases have been filed against various opposition parties including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy. The court has directed the state government to file a reply on the matter in three weeks. It will hold its next hearing after five weeks.