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Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence has filed a defamation suit against Congress leaders Randeep Singh Surjewala, Prithviraj Chavan, Sanjay Nirupam, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and others after they failed to respond to a ‘cease and desist’ notice issued against them by the company over the Rafale deal, reported Business Today.

The Congress leaders had 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, said a report in Deccan Herald (DH).

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, according to the DH report.

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.

The Congress has been consistently targeting the BJP-led NDA government and Anil Ambani’s company over the Rafale deal. The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the Rafale deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government for the procurement of 126 Rafale jets.

The Congress has also been pressing for price details of the deal, but the NDA government has refused to divulge them citing confidentiality provisions of a 2008 Indo-France pact.

An IndiaToday.In report says the notice had been sent in the form of a ‘cease and desist’ letter that asked the Congress party to stop spreading “misinformation” about Reliance Defence. Since they failed to respond the company would fight the case in court.

The notices were served ahead of a month-long offensive planned by the Congress against the Rafale deal. The party has planned press conferences across the country from August 25 to September 6, and district and state-level agitations starting September 7.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi had formed a six member task force to take on BJP over the Rafale deal, Rahul Gandhi asked about 50 Congress leaders to hold press conferences in 100 cities across the country in the next few days exposing the deal.

Senior Congress leader Jaipal Reddy was appointed head of the committee. Other members include Randeep Surjewala, Shakti Singh Gohil, Arjun Modwadia, Pawan Khera, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Jaiveer Shergill.

Rahul Gandhi had also emphasised on the importance of exposing the BJP on the “irregularities” regarding the Rafale deal. He had also demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter.

The ‘cease and desist’ letter

As the Congress planned its campaign, Anil Ambani had written to Rahul Gandhi two days ago, saying that the Congress had been misinformed, misdirected and misled on the Rafale deal and there is no irregularity in the deal between Reliance Defence and Rafale , as alleged by the Congress boss.

In the second letter, Ambani said, “Rafale fighter jets are not being manufactured by Reliance or the Dassault Reliance Joint Venture. All 36 planes are to be 100 per cent manufactured in France, and exported from France to India.”

He said that “not a single component” of the 36 Rafale aircraft purchased by India “worth a single rupee is to be manufactured by Reliance”.

After two letters addressed to Congress president Rahul Gandhi on the Rafale deal, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence sent a legal notice to Congress national spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill asking him to refrain from making unverified, frivolous and defamatory statements on the deal.

The notice, is in the form of a cease and desist letter, asked Shergill and Congress to stop spreading “misinformation” about Reliance Defence.

In the notice, Anil Ambani alleges that Congress leaders Randeep Surjewala, Ashok Chavan, Sanjay Nirupam, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and others have been making incorrect, frivolous and misleading statements about the selection of Reliance Defence for a joint venture with French defence major Dassault Aviation as part of the Rafale deal.

Shergil is one of the members of the Congress task force on the Rafael Deal. He said he won’t “get scared with such notices”. “Tax payer of this country deserves to know why they paid extra [Rs] 42000 crore.”

Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil, in reply to a question at a news conference, confirmed that several party leaders across the country had received notices on Tuesday and said he himself had got one earlier, on August 1, said a report in The Telegraph (TT).

“I have sent the preliminary reply. When we speak, we speak with authenticated facts and with great responsibility. Till now, no industrialist has sent a notice to a political party… but Rafale is Modiji’s monumental scam – the grandmother of all scams. He is very scared and is getting his friends to send legal notices,” Gohil added.

Notices had been sent to 80 Congress leaders, and added this was the first time the group had issued such a notice to a political party, said the TT report citing a source in the business group.

Gohil said on Wednesday the Congress would not back down because of some legal notices. “If Modiji enjoys trying to scare us, he can entertain himself by doing so. We are committed to the fight against corruption and are willing to go to jail if need be in the national interest,” he said.

One of the notices sent out on Tuesday refers to “your party’s plan to launch a nation-wide campaign against its political adversary on the issue of purchase of Rafale fighter aircrafts…” and urges “you to avoid, cease and desist from making any unverified, speculative, incorrect, false, frivolous, misleading derogatory and defamatory statements….”

The notice mentions nine Congress leaders on whom notices have been served earlier, and defamation suits filed.

The Congress on Wednesday repeated the allegation of “crony capitalism” against Modi.

Legal notices were sent to these leaders but they did not respond, the cease and desist notice says. The group has now decided to pursue the matter in court against each of them.

Power scam: At the news conference, the party accused the Centre of trying to side-step an April 2017 Supreme Court order rejecting a plea by the Adanis, Essar and the Tatas to revise the electricity price agreed on in the 2007 Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Haryana.

Former Union minister Jairam Ramesh said though the court had rejected the plea, the Centre had advised Gujarat to set up a high-powered committee to suggest a solution. “Instead of appealing against the Supreme Court judgment, the Modi government is trying to reopen the matter through another route,” he said. The party described this as a “Rs 88,000-crore power scam”.

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