Just before announcement of 2019 Lok Sabha results, Anil Ambani led Reliance Group on Tuesday, May 21, decided to withdraw the Rs 5,000-crore civil defamation suits filed in an Ahmedabad court against several Congress leaders and National Herald newspaper over their statements and an article on the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal.
The suits were being heard in the court of city civil and sessions judge PJ Tamakuwala in Ahmedabad.
An email from a lawyer representing three Reliance group companies reached the Congress leaders on Sunday evening when the last phase of polling was entering its last hour and before exit poll results had become public, said a media report. The Congress leaders and the newspaper had earlier been slapped with “cease and desist” notices.
The Congress party and its president Rahul Gandhi had over the past few months alleged corruption in the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and claimed that Anil Ambani’s group got Rs. 30,000 crore of benefit by way of getting offset contracts of the deal.
Reliance Group had filed defamation suits against some Congress leaders but not against Gandhi.
Rasesh Parikh, the Ahmedabad-based lawyer, said in the email that was under instruction to withdraw the case pending in the Ahmedabad City Civil Court at the next hearing.
Parikh wrote: “My clients are of the view that the said defamatory statements were made by you for political purposes in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections 2019 that have concluded on Sunday, the 19th May 2019.”
“We have intimated the defendants that we are going to withdraw the suits against them,” the complainant’s lawyer, Rasesh Parikh, reportedly told media in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
In a statement, the ADAG group said, “We believe that the defamatory statements by certain individuals and corporate bodies with regard to the offset agreement between Reliance Group and Dassault Aviation were made for political purposes in the run up to the Lok Sabha election 2019 that concluded on Sunday, 19 May, 2019. Besides, the subject matter is pending for adjudication before the Hon Supreme Court.”
Zafar Agha, the editor-in-chief of the National Herald, confirmed that the publication had received the email.
In the defamation suit, the complainants said the defendants made libelous and derogatory statements against the Reliance Group and its chairman Anil Ambani pertaining to the Rafale fighter jet deal and his firms.
They asked the defendants to “cease and desist” from levelling allegations against the company in connection with the Rafale deal.
The defamation suit filed against the National Herald pertained to an article published by it, titled ‘Anil Ambani floated Reliance Defence 10 days before Modi announced Rafale deal’.
The article “misleads the general public to believe that undue business favours are being extended to them by the government of the day,” the petition said.
It conveys a “negative image” and “adversely affects the public perception” of Reliance Group and its chairman Ambani, it said.
It has caused “considerable damage” to the reputation and goodwill of plaintiff firms, it said, seeking damages of Rs 5,000 crore.