Adani Group files Rs 100-crore defamation suit against The Wire

WrittenBy:NL Team

The Adani Group has filed a Rs 100-crore civil defamation suit against The Wire for an article published on November 11, 2017.

The article titled “Does It Make Economic Sense for IOC and Gail India to Invest in Adani’s LNG Terminals?” was authored by Noor Mohammad and raises questions about the investment made by state-owned Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Gail India in a “private sector project without having any controlling interest”.

In addition, the article mentions that IOC’s participation in the Adani Group-promoted LNG terminals in Odisha and Gujarat would help the Group secure bank loans, while the absence of a controlling stake does little to benefit the PSU. The article also states that the Adani Group’s outstanding debts have shot up to Rs 72,000 crore, the highest for any corporate group in the country.

While the author does not directly quote any IOC officials or the Adani Group, it quotes a former IOC chairman, who declined to be identified.

Speaking to Newslaundry, MK Venu, The Wire’s founding editor, said, “We are merely asking whether the taxpayers’ money is being invested through the oil PSUs well. Does it make commercial sense for oil PSUs to invest 49 per cent stake without controlling interest in the management of a project promoted by the Adanis. These are legitimate questions media has raised in the past with regard to govt or PSU investment in private sector ventures. Even CAG looks critically at such public-private ventures in infrastructure to see whether taxpayers money is being invested optimally.” He added, “So we don’t understand what is defamatory about merely raising such questions.”

Venu also added, “We feel this civil suit has all the characteristics of SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation). The Rs 100 crore civil suit by Adanis seeks an injunction against raising such questions in regard to the project. The idea seems to be to scare us into submission. That is the objective of SLAPP.”

In 2015, Newslaundry had done a five-part RTI series showing how politicians use PSUs as cash-vending machines. Such suits could well become a tool to dissuade such reportage.

Incidentally, the hearing for this case is scheduled on the same day as The Wire‘s Jay Shah case hearing.

The Wire recently won an injunction in the Rs 100 crore defamation suit filed by BJP chief Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah. The suit was filed against a report that revealed a huge increase in the turnover of Jay’s company after Narendra Modi’s election as prime minister in 2014.

While The Wire plans to fight the case, this isn’t the first legal action taken by the Adani Group against a media publication. In June 2017, the Group had sent a multi-crore defamation lawsuit to the former editor of Economic and Political Weekly, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, and the Sameeksha Trust, which runs the weekly. They had alleged that two articles published by the weekly were defamatory and “harmful to the reputation of their client”.

Speaking of the resource strain caused by such suits, Venu said, “The Wire will continue to raise these questions as freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under the Constitution.”


We take comments from subscribers only!  Subscribe now to post comments! 
Already a subscriber?  Login

You may also like