Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group has filed a Rs 5,000-crore civil defamation suit against National Herald, alleging that an article published in the newspaper on the Rafale deal was “libellous and derogatory”, PTI reported on Saturday. The court of city civil and sessions judge PJ Tamakuwala issued notices to the respondents and sought replies by September 7.

The defamation suit was filed by Reliance Defence, Reliance Infrastructure and Reliance Aerostructure against the Associated Journals Limited, the publisher of the National Herald, its editor in-charge Zafar Agha and author of the article Vishwadeepak.

The companies have alleged that the article, titled ‘Anil Ambani floated Reliance Defence 10 days before Modi announced Rafale deal’, “misleads the general public to believe that undue business favours are being extended to them by the government of the day”. It conveys a “negative image” and “adversely affects the public perception” of Reliance Group and its chairperson Ambani, read the suit. The companies claimed the article caused “considerable damage” to their reputation and sought damages of Rs 5,000 crore.

On August 22, Reliance Group served legal notices to spokespersons and leaders of the Congress party asking them to “cease and desist” from levelling allegations against the Rafale deal. That came a day after Ambani wrote to Congress President Rahul Gandhi, claiming that the Opposition party was misinformed and “blamed corporate rivals for misleading” the Congress.

Randeep Surjewala, Ashok Chavan, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sunil Jakhar, Priyanka Chaturvedi and Jaiveer Shergill are among the leaders who were served notices for making “derogatory and defamatory statements in the press and electronic media in relation to the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft by India from France in a government-to-government contract.”

All of this come just days before a month-long offensive planned by the Congress against the Rafale deal. The party has planned press conferences across the country from August 25 to September 6, and district and state-level agitations starting September 7.