The Reliance Group, led by Anil Ambani, on Tuesday, announced its decision to withdraw the Rs 5,000 crore civil defamation suit, filed in a court here, against Congress leaders and the National Herald newspaper over their statements and an article on the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal.
The court of city civil and sessions judge PJ Tamakuwala is hearing the suits.
The complainant’s lawyer, Rasesh Parikh, told reporters: “We have intimated the defendants that we are going to withdraw the suits against them.”
Concurring, PS Champaneri, the counsel for the National Herald and some other defendants, said the Reliance Group’s counsel informed him that he had received instructions from the group to withdraw the defamation cases.
The formal process to withdraw the suits would begin once the court resumes after the summer vacation, he added.
Reliance Defence, Reliance Infrastructure and Reliance Aerostructure, which are companies of the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Group, had filed civil defamation cases against Congress leaders Sunil Jakhar, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Oommen Chandy, Ashok Chavan, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sanjay Nirupam and Shaktisinh Gohil, and some journalists and news organisations like the National Herald.
The defamation suits were also filed against the National Herald’s editor Zafar Agha, and Vishwa Deepak, the author of a news article published by it.
In its defamation suits, the company had stated that the defendants had made libellous and derogatory statements against the Reliance Group and its chairman Anil Ambani over the Rafale fighter jet deal and sought a directive to them to “cease and desist” from levelling such allegations against the Group.
As for the National Herald, it was about an article with the headline “Anil Ambani floated Reliance Defence 10 days before Modi announced Rafale deal”.
The company stated that the article “misleads the general public to believe that undue business favours are being extended to them by the government of the day” and that it sent out a “negative image” and “adversely affects the public perception” of Reliance Group and its chairman Ambani.
Seeking damages to the tune of Rs 5,000 crore, the company asserted that the article had inflicted “considerable damage” to the reputation and goodwill of the Reliance Group.
In a verdict in December last year, the Supreme Court had ruled out any probe against the Rafale fighter jet deal.
The verdict was a major boost for the Narendra Modi government which had been cornered by the Opposition alleging that the original Rafale contract was changed with a new one to benefit Anil Ambani to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore.
A French media report had earlier cited a Dassault official as saying that partnership with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group was “mandatory” to win the contract with India for the Rafale aircraft, following which Congress President Rahul Gandhi accused the government of corruption.
The report said it had obtained a document detailing a presentation that deputy chief executive officer Loïk Segalen had made explaining the reason behind choosing Reliance Defence for the deal.
Segalen’s remarks reinforced the statement made by former French president Francois Hollande that France did not have any role in the selection of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as India offset partner for Rafale-maker Dassault.
However, Dassault had declined the claim by the media report and reiterated that it had “freely chosen” Reliance Defence as the offset partner.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after talks with the then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris. The final deal was sealed on September 23, 2016.
(With inputs from IANS)