Rafale: Reliance files defamation suit against Cong

Accuses Cong leaders of running vilification campaign at the instance of corporate rivals
Last Updated 22 August 2018, 12:05 IST

Anil Ambani-led Reliance group on Wednesday filed defamation suits against several Congress leaders, who levelled allegations against the company in connection with the controversial defence deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a government-to-government contract.

The leaders who have been dragged to the court include Randeep Surjewala, Ashok Chavan, Sanjay Nirupam, Anurag Narayan Singh, Oommen Chandy, Shaktisinh Gohil, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sunil Jakhar and Priyanka Chaturvedi.

In a letter sent to Congress media coordinator Sanjiv Singh, a law firm representing Reliance said allegations made by Congress leaders were “false, frivolous, misleading and derogatory” in nature that created a “negative image about the company in the minds of the public and resulted in defamation of the clients.”

“Since they (Congress leaders) failed to comply with the legal notices sent to them, our clients (three Reliance group companies) were constrained to file separate defamation suits against them that are currently pending before the courts,” it says.

In his response, Gohil said, “Prime Minister Modi is scared of corruption. If attempts are made to scare the Congress party, our president (Gandhi) has asked party members to not be scared. Rafale is a monumental scam under Modi. Being a responsible political party, we are presenting publicly available facts, which was also discussed in the Parliament.”

“The manner and the fashion in which ‘Bhrashtachar Ka Khel Rafale’ has unveiled before this country wherein a loss of over Rs. 41,000 crore has been cost to public exchequer; a company belonging to a friend of the Prime Minister has been given a contract worth Rs 30,000 crore after snatching it from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited – a public sector company – were all discussed. It was decided that the corruption scams of Modi Government particularly the Rafale scam will be taken to people of India,” said Surjewala.

The letter was sent by Mumbai-based firm Mulla & Mulla, and Craigie Blunt & Caroe on behalf of Reliance Infrastructure Limited, Reliance Defence Limited and Reliance Aerostructure Limited, belonging to Reliance Group of companies led by Anil Ambani.

“It appears that a vilification campaign is being carried out by (Congress) leaders at the instances of corporate rivals to deliberately besmirch our client's (Reliance) good name and reputation and undermine and prejudicially affect the commercial interests of their large family of shareholders for petty personal and political gains,” says the letter.

“Freedom of expression and speech should not be mistaken as a license to behave irresponsibly and make false, frivolous, misleading and distorted statements to suit your political interest. Political leaders should release statements based only on irrefutable evidence which have been gathered after due inquiry and verification from the concerned source,” reads the notice.

The legal notice comes days after Reliance chairman Anil Ambani's second letter to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in which the industrialist described allegations on the Rafale deal as “baseless, ill-informed and unfortunate.”

The controversy over the defence deal has its genesis in a series of allegations levelled by Gandhi and several other leaders, who described the purchase as a big scam that was done in violation of government procedures to benefit companies like Reliance.

Last Saturday, Congress announced drafting a plan for a massive nation-wide campaign on the Rafale deal to “expose” Prime Minister Narendra Modi's “personal role” in re-negotiating the fighter jet contract, benefitting the businessmen. Gandhi has tasked a six-member team led by senior leader S Jaipal Reddy to conduct an extensive month-long campaign across the country to highlight the alleged irregularities in the fighter aircraft purchase from France.

The controversy surfaces at a time when the Defence Ministry plans to buy 110 more additional fighter jets for the Indian Air Force through a global tender.

(Published 22 August 2018, 11:59 IST)

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