New Delhi: Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure has sued The Wire for Rs 6,000 crore in Ahmedabad city civil court for an online video show on the controversial Rafale deal.
The video discussion – titled ‘Rafale Deal: Understanding the Controversy’ – was published on August 23, 2018. The participants included senior defence journalist Ajai Shukla and The Wire’s founding editor M.K. Venu as participants, with national security analyst Happymon Jacob anchoring the show.
The lawsuit has been filed against The Wire’s founding editors and Shukla, and also The Wire’s office manager, who plays no decision-making role on either the editorial or business side of the organisation.
The show, which can be viewed below, was a rational and informed debate on whether the process by which the Modi government acquired 36 Rafale jets was transparent in nature.
This naturally included a balanced discussion on how the deal changed at the eleventh hour and whether Reliance Infrastructure’s track record was taken into consideration by Dassault when it chose the company as an offset partner.
The Reliance Group and Anil Ambani feel that the said program is “false” and that statements made during the discussion are “wholly incorrect and misleading, made with a deliberate pre-determined motive to harm and injure the reputation” of both the company and its chairman.
The company has chosen Ahmedabad as the forum for its case because court fees for defamation cases are capped at Rs 75,000, regardless of the damages claimed. In other jurisdictions, in order to deter frivolous suits, the fees rise in proportion to the damages sought.
The civil suit hearing has been listed for November 27. Siddharth Varadarajan, a founding editor of The Wire, says the latest case by the Anil Ambani-led company is an attempt to silence the media and discourage journalists from asking questions about the Rafale deal. “We will not be deterred by such tactics,” he said, adding that The Wire would contest the suit and any other case Reliance files.
The Wire is already facing six cases of defamation from the Adani group (three criminal and three civil worth Rs 300 crore), two from BJP president Amit Shah’s son (one criminal and one civil worth Rs 100 crore), two suits from BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar (for Rs 40 crore) and one Rs 10 crore suit from Venkatratnam Ravishankar Ramnarayanpet, who goes by the name ‘Sri Sri Ravishankar’.
Four Ambani-owned companies have filed 28 defamation suits in Ahmedabad courts since January 2018, reported Scroll.in. Eight cases are against politicians from opposition parties, while 20 cases are against media organisations and journalists.