Updated: January 28, 2021 8:11:43 pm
The Gujarat High Court on Thursday suspended a non-bailable arrest warrant against senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta issued by a lower court in connection with a criminal complaint filed by Adani Power in 2017 alleging Thakurta of defamation. The temporary suspension of the trial court order was granted on the ground that Thakurta will give an undertaking assuring of his presence at the next hearing before the trial court, scheduled for February 9.
The court of Justice BN Karia issued notice to the original complainant Adani Power, to which the respondent is expected to reply by February 20, in a petition moved by Thakurta before the high court through his advocate Anand Yagnik, seeking quashing of the lower court’s order.
Justice Karia also directed Thakurta to remain present on the next date of trial before the taluka court in Mundra where Adani Power’s complaint is being heard. On the said next date, Thakurta is also expected to submit an undertaking to the effect that as and when the trial court requires his presence, he shall remain present.
On January 18, a taluka court in Mundra had issued the non-bailable warrant upon Thakurta’s absence from the court proceedings despite two summon notices issued earlier. However, as per the petition filed by Thakurta before the HC, the summons were issued at a time when the taluka court at Mundra was closed and thereafter three dates had passed – December 4, 2020, January 4 and 18 – when Thakurta had remained absent. On January 4, an application seeking exemption from physical appearance was moved by Thakurta on the ground that he resides in another state and being a senior citizen with comorbid conditions, traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic would be difficult. The application was permitted by the trial court. However, the same day, Adani Power moved an application for issuance of non-bailable warrant against Thakurta and on January 18, the lower court allowed the complainant’s application while rejecting Thakurta’s second application seeking exemption from appearance.
Yagnik through the petition has submitted that “the initiation of criminal case and moving such an application (seeking issuance of non bailable warrant, by Adani Power) is nothing but an attempt to arm twist the petitioner in giving into the whims and fancies of the complainant.”
As per settled law, a lower court cannot issue a non-bailable warrant without issuing summons and bailable warrant. Moreover, a non bailable warrant is expected to be issued with judicious discretion, only after all other options have been exhausted and the trial court has come to a conclusion that the non bailable warrant is the only option left to secure the accused person’s presence, Thakurta’s petition submits.
Thakurta also submitted through his petition before the HC that he suffers from diabetes, blood pressure and serious cardiac problems besides suffering from spondylitis and arthritic issues.
The criminal complaint was filed by Adani Power in December 2017 for a June 2017 article in Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) titled, “Modi Government’s Rs 500-Crore Bonanza to the Adani Group”, against its authors – the then editor of EPW, Thakurta, Advait Rao Palepu, Shinzini Jain and Abir Dasgupta as well as MK Venu, the founding editor of independent news portal 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. EPW subsequently retracted the article although The Wire continues to keep it on its website. As per Adani Power’s lawyer, “a settlement was arrived at” with the other defendants of the complaint, except for Thakurta.
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