suppressing dissent

What happened to the legal action against 'Gas Wars', the book that took on the Ambanis?

The writer of the book, which is still available easily, details the events of the year gone by since legal processes were initiated.

A year ago, lawyers engaged by the two richest siblings in India, sent notices to me, my co-authors and my associates. It was claimed that we had defamed the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, in our book Gas Wars: Crony Capitalism and the Ambanis. Over the past 12 months, I have often been asked: “What happened to the case against you?”

My standard reaction: “Case? What case?”

No legal proceedings

Contrary to what some may presume, Khaitan & Co., representing Mukesh Ambani and Reliance Industries Limited, the country's largest private corporate entity, and Mulla & Mulla, Craigie, Blunt & Caroe, representing Anil Ambani and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, have not filed any legal proceedings against me, my co-authors and my associates, in any court of law in India or anywhere else, since the legal notices were served on us in April-May 2014.

A day after the book was launched in New Delhi on April 15, 2014, lawyers for RIL and Mukesh Ambani served the first notice on me, my co-authors Subir Ghosh and Jyotirmoy Chaudhuri, our publishing facilitator Authors UpFront, distributor FEEL Books, our printer, Internet retailers Amazon, Flipkart and Kobo, and even Deepshikha Shankar, who used to work for the Foundation for Media Professionals and who had forwarded an electronic invitation for the launch function to various people.

The notice alleging defamation described the nearly-600 page book as a "pamphlet" and called for a stop on the sale, publication and distribution of the book, suggested that all existing copies be destroyed, that online publicity be stopped, and an unconditional apology tendered by us.

A week later, on April 22, 2014, my co-authors and I received a second legal notice, this time from lawyers representing the younger brother Anil Ambani and the conglomerate he heads, ADAG. This notice asked for the removal of the website promoting the book, www.gaswars.in, besides an immediate halt to the sale, publication, distribution and circulation of the book.

What the notices said

Both notices, in standard legalese, said that “failing compliance” their clients would be “constrained to adopt such civil and/or criminal proceedings” as “advised”. On April 23, all nine respondents of the first notice from Khaitan & Co. received another round of notices, expressing unhappiness at the proceedings of the launch event.

This notice took umbrage at my quoting the former Governor of West Bengal Gopal Krishna Gandhi at the April 15 launch function. Gandhi had described Reliance as a “parallel state”, exemplifying corporate greed, earlier that same morning at the Indian government' auditorium in the capital, Vigyan Bhavan.

Ironically, Gandhi had made the remarks while delivering the 15th D.P. Kohli Memorial lecture, titled Eclipse at Noon: Shadows over India's Conscience, organised on the occasion of the conclusion of the golden jubilee celebration of the country's premier police agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation.

It is understood that a separate legal notice was sent to Gandhi. The April 23 notice had a rather prickly dart thrown at us. We were asked to pay “token damages of INR 100 crore” within ten days. We later learnt that a similar notice had been served on the editor of MoneyLife magazine and website for publishing a review of Gas Wars.

Striking fear

There's a term to denote the impact such legal notices are meant to have not only on those on whom these have been served by on others as well. It's called “chilling effect”. In legal jargon, such notices are called SLAPP or strategic lawsuits against public participation – that is, litigation meant to harass, intimidate and silence critical writers who are expected to give in after they are faced with prospects of incurring high expenditure on legal defence.

As far as my collaborators and I are concerned, our position has not changed. We do not believe there is anything in the book that is defamatory. The book, which had been in the making for more than four years, is based on government reports, various other publications and websites, and interviews with many individuals, including senior officials of the Reliance group.

On May 23, 2014, a month after we responded to the legal notices, a fourth notice was received by us from Khaitan & Co. reiterating the views that had been already made. The following month, RIL brought out a 56-page, glossy booklet titled: India has never been here before: Facts you didn’t know about KG-D6. (KG-D6 refers to the area in the Bay of Bengal off the basin of the Krishna and Godavari Rivers along the south-eastern coast of the country where a company controlled by RIL has been exploring and producing oil and natural gas.) Together with the booklet that contained endorsements of the work RIL was doing by eminent persons, a promotional video was released.

The past year has been a tumultuous one for me. I have been humbled and, at the same time, astonished by the reactions of different – and diverse – sections of people to Gas Wars. Expect new, updated versions of the book in different Indian languages.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta is a journalist, educator and documentary film-maker with 38 years of experience.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Want to retire at 45? Make your money work for you

Common sense and some discipline are all you need.

Dreaming of writing that book or taking that cruise when you hit your 40s? Well, this dream need not be unrealistic.

All it takes is simple math and the foresight to do some smart financial planning when you are still young. If you start early and get into the discipline of cutting down on unnecessary expenditure, using that money to invest systematically, you can build wealth that sets you free to tick those items off your bucket list sooner than later.

A quick look at how much you spend on indulgences will give you an idea of how much you can save and invest. For example, if you spend, say Rs. 1,000 on movie watching per week, this amount compounded over 10 years means you would have spent around Rs 7,52,000 on just movies! You can try this calculation for yourself. Think of any weekly or monthly expense you regularly make. Now use this calculator to understand how much these expenses will pile up overtime with the current rate of inflation.

Now imagine how this money could have grown at the end of 10 years and overcome the inflation effect if you had instead invested a part of it somewhere!

It is no rocket science

The fact is that financial planning is simpler than we imagine it to be. Some simple common sense and a clear prioritization of life’s goals is all you need:

  1. Set goals and work backwards: Everything starts with what you want. So, what are your goals? Are they short-term (like buying a car), medium-term (buying a house) or long-term (comfortable living post-retirement). Most of us have goals that come under all the three categories. So, our financial plans should reflect that. Buying a house, for example, would mean saving up enough money for up-front payment and ensuring you have a regular source of income for EMI payment for a period of at least 15-20 years. Buying a car on the other hand might just involve having a steady stream of income to pay off the car loan.
  2. Save first, spend later: Many of us make the mistake of putting what is left, after all our expenses have been met, in the savings kitty. But the reverse will have more benefits in the long run. This means, putting aside a little savings, right at the beginning of the month in the investment option that works best for you. You can then use the balance to spend on your expenditures. This discipline ensures that come what may, you remain on track with your saving goals.
  3. Don’t flaunt money, but use it to create more: When you are young and get your first jobit is tempting to spend on a great lifestyle. But as we’ve discussed, even the small indulgences add up to a serious amount of cash over time. Instead, by regulating indulgences now and investing the rest of your money, you can actually become wealthy instead of just seeming to be so.
  4. Set aside emergency funds: When an emergency arises, like sudden hospitalisation or an accident, quick access to money is needed. This means keeping aside some of your money in liquid assets (accessible whenever you want it). It thus makes sense to regularly save a little towards creating this emergency fund in an investment that can be easily liquidated.
  5. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: This is something any investment adviser will tell you, simply because different investment options come with different benefits and risks and suit different investment horizons. By investing in a variety of instruments or options, you can hedge against possible risks and also meet different goals.

How and Why Mutual Funds work

A mutual fund is a professionally managed investment scheme that pools money collected from investors like you and invests this into a diversified portfolio (an optimal mix) of stocks, bonds and other securities.

As an investor, you buy ‘units’, under a mutual fund scheme. The value of these units (Net Asset Value) fluctuates depending on the market value of the mutual fund’s investments. So, the units can be bought or redeemed as per your needs and based on the value.

As mentioned, the fund is managed by professionals who follow the market closely to make calls on where to invest money. This makes these funds a great option for someone who isn’t financially very savvy but is interested in saving up for the future.

So how is a mutual fund going to help to meet your savings goals? Here’s a quick Q&A helps you understand just that:

  1. How do mutual funds meet my investment needs? Mutual Funds come with a variety of schemes that suit different goals depending on whether they are short-term, medium-term or long-term.
  2. Can I withdraw money whenever I want to? There are several mutual funds that offer liquidity – quick and easy access to your money when you want it. For example, there are liquid mutual funds which do not have any lock in period and you can invest your surplus money even for one day. Based on your goals, you can divide your money between funds with longer term or shorter term benefits.
  3. Does it help save on taxes? Investing in certain types of mutual funds also offers you tax benefits. More specifically, investing in Equity Linked Saving Schemes, which are funds that invest in a diverse portfolio of equities, offers you tax deductions up to Rs. 1.5 lakhs under Section 80C of the Income Tax Act.
  4. Don’t I need a lot of money to invest in MFs? No, you can start small. The returns in terms of percentage is the same irrespective of the amount you invest in. Additionally, the Systematic Investment Plan (SIP) allows you to invest a small amount weekly, monthly or quarterly in a mutual fund. So, you get to control the size and frequency of your investment and make sure you save before you spend.
  5. But aren’t MFs risky? Well many things in life are risky! Mutual funds try to mitigate your risk by investing your money across a variety of securities. You can further hedge risk by investing in 2 to 3 mutual offers that offer different growth stories i.e. a blue-chip fund and a mid-cap fund. Also remember in a mutual fund, your money is being managed by professionals who are constantly following the market.
  6. Don’t I have to wait too long to get back my returns? No! Mutual Funds, because of the variety of options they offer, can give you gains in the short or medium term too.

The essence of mutual funds is that your money is not lying idle, but is dynamically invested and working for you. To know more about how investing in mutual funds really works for you, see here.

Disclaimer: Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risks, read all scheme related documents carefully.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Mutual Funds Sahi Hai and not by the Scroll editorial team.