By Elton Gomes
Anil Ambani’s Reliance Infrastructure Limited & Others have filed a defamation suit against Seema Mustafa, founder-editor of The Citizen, an independent news firm. Ambani filed the suit before the Ahmedabad City Civil Court in Gujarat and demanded damages amounting to Rs 7,000 crore. The suit has been filed with regards to The Citizen’s coverage over the Rafale defence deal.
“The Citizen is a non funded news organization that takes pride in honesty, courage and independence,” the news website said in its statement. “We believe in professional integrity and maintain a code of ethics centering on public trust, truthfulness, fairness, integrity, independence and accountability. We are determined to fight for the truth.”
— The Citizen (@TheCitizen_in) October 23, 2018
The website said that it rejected “rejected Ambani’s charges in toto,” adding that it was unable to provide more details at this point since the matter is under judicial consideration. In its statement, it asked for “support and solidarity” from its readers. “We reject attempts to silence the media, and believe that an independent media – devoid of political or corporate funding – is crucial to the future of journalism.”
Ambani sues NDTV and National Herald
Just a few days prior, NDTV issued a statement saying that it had been sued for Rs 10,000 crore by Ambani’s Reliance Group for its reportage on the Rafale jet deal. The matter was again held in a court in Ahmedabad.
The hearing has been listed for October 26. In the statement, NDTV said that it will be arguing that the charges of defamation are nothing but “a heavy-handed attempt by Anil Ambani’s group to suppress the facts and prevent the media from doing its job.”
A report in August stated that Ambani’s Reliance Group had filed a Rs 5,000 crore defamation suit against National Herald. Reliance claimed that an article published in the newspaper regarding the Rafale fighter jet deal was “libellous and derogatory”.
Ambani’s connection to the Rafale deal
The opposition’s charge of crony capitalism and nepotism against the government are linked to the entry of industrialist Ambani. The Congress argues that Ambani, chairman of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), was a relatively new entrant into the defence business and that it had ‘no previous experience of building aircraft’. The Congress alleged that Ambani was given a contract bypassing the venerable public sector enterprise Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
A September 24 memorandum submitted by the Congress to the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K.V. Chowdary elaborates the party’s charges. “The deliberate enrichment of a private entity, Reliance Defence, at the cost of HAL by award of Rs 30,000 crore offset contract’ as also Rs 1,00,000 crore ‘life cycle contract’ without any tender and without following any ‘mandatory requirement of the Defence Procurement Procedure'”, the Congress alleged in its memorandum, India Today reported.
Former French President Francoise Hollande’s comments on the Rafale deal put Reliance’s role in coercing Dassault Aviation in sealing the deal. “We did not have any say in this matter,” Hollande told Mediapart that Dassault had no choice but to select Reliance as its interlocutor. Hollande said further, “It is the Indian government which proposed this group and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani. We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” as per the India Today report.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius