The Adani Power, in an affidavit, opposed a plea by former Economic and Political Weekly editor and senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta before the Gujarat High Court, seeking the transfer of a criminal defamation case filed by the company from a Mundra court in Kutch to a competent court in Ahmedabad.
Thakurta, who was slapped with several other civil suits by different companies under the Adani Group in Ahmedabad district, had cited the same as a ground for transfer of the criminal defamation case from the Mundra court to an Ahmedabad court.
The affidavit filed by Adani Power’s authorised representative, Malav Deliwala, submitted that “the cause of action for civil suits is entirely different from the cause of action for criminal defamation proceeding”.
The affidavit stated Thakurta had published a photo of the Prime Minister of India with Mr Adani (Gautam), chairman of the Adani Power “making an imputation with a view to harm the reputation of the deponent (Adani Power) …and to lower its self-esteem in the mind of public at large and, furthermore, as the defamatory article is available to be read everywhere in India and also outside India and globally, the same has also tarnished the image of the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Office and India as a whole”.
The affidavit claimed Adani Power suffered “serious injury on its reputation and had to undergo severe agony” in explaining “correct set of circumstances to the well-wishers, employees, investors, bankers, shareholders and also local residents of Mundra” and the publishing of the article lowered the company’s “reputation and esteem amongst its shareholders and employees”.
“The deponent (Adani Power) submits that the petitioner (Thakurta), though was one of the party defendants in two civil suits, has not even bothered to obtain details of the civil suits and check the averments with regard to jurisdiction and the laws pertaining to civil suit jurisdiction vis-a-vis criminal defamation,” the affidavit stated.
Opposing the transfer of the case to an Ahmedabad court, Adani Power has further contended that “transfer of trials from one district to another would directly reflect on the credibility of the district and state judiciary and so it is important that the apprehension of not getting a fair trial (as expressed by Thakurta) is based on credible material”.
The affidavit added that “it would be inappropriate on the part of higher courts to transfer the cases from one court to another on the ground that a few adverse orders were passed against the party”.
In January this year, an arrest warrant was issued against Thakurta by the Mundra court after he failed to appear before the court.
In December 2017, the criminal defamation complaint was filed by Adani Power after an article was published in the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), on June 2017, titled, “Modi Government’s Rs 500-crore Bonanza to the Adani Group”. The complaint was filed against the authors — the then editor of EPW, Thakurta, Advait Rao Palepu, Shinzini Jain and Abir Dasgupta as well as MK Venu, the founding editor The Wire and Foundation for Independent Journalism. The latter two were made party to the complaint since the original EPW article was republished by The Wire.
Adani Power’s lawyer told the Mundra court “a settlement was arrived at” with the other defendants of the complaint, except for Thakurta.
In his petition seeking the transfer of the case, Thakurta had also cited his ill-health as a ground and submitted that he was ready to bear the expenses of commuting of witnesses, if necessary. “In so far as the age and/or medical papers of the petitioner (Thakurta) is concerned… the petitioner always has the remedy of approaching the magistrate for appropriate reliefs at such stage of trial when the personal presence of the petitioner can be dispensed with…”
The affidavit by Adani Power submitted that “there can be no room of doubt and that all the facts stated in my complaint constitute offences, which are required to be put to trial, and, therefore, the complainant (Adani Power) may not be denied the right to defend my case at the trial in the court of law having the jurisdiction of the present case,” while adding that “such a casual attitude on the part of the petitioner (Thakurta) in approaching this…court for transferring proceedings… is required to be deprecated”.