Businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group on Tuesday filed a defamation suit worth Rs 7,000 crore against The Citizen’s founder-editor Seema Mustafa in connection with the news portal’s coverage of the Rafale deal. The lawsuit has been filed in Ahmedabad City Civil Court in Gujarat.
“The Citizen is a non funded news organization that takes pride in honesty, courage and independence,” a statement by the news website said on Tuesday. “We believe in professional integrity and maintain a code of ethics centering on public trust, truthfulness, fairness, integrity, independence and accountability. We are determined to fight for the truth.”
The company said that it rejected Ambani’s charges completely, but pleaded its inability to provide more details at this stage since the case is under judicial consideration. “We need your support and solidarity,” the news website said. “We reject attempts to silence the media, and believe that an independent media – devoid of political or corporate funding – is crucial to the future of journalism.”
India and France signed a deal in 2016 for the delivery of 36 Rafale aircraft to the Indian Air Force. On July 20, Congress President Rahul Gandhi criticised Prime Minister Narenda Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha, claiming they had not been truthful about the deal with France. Gandhi alleged that not only is India overpaying for the Rafale aircraft, it is doing so to benefit businessman Anil Ambani. Gandhi’s allegations were bolstered when former French President Francois Hollande claimed in September that the Indian government had proposed Ambani’s Reliance Defence’s name for the offset obligations in the Rafale deal.
Last week, NDTV said that the Reliance Group had sued it for Rs 10,000 crore for its coverage of the agreement. The defamation lawsuit was filed after an episode of NDTV’s weekly show Truth vs Hype that aired on September 29.
In August, the Reliance Group filed a Rs 5,000-crore civil defamation suit against National Herald, calling an article published in the newspaper about the Rafale deal “libellous and derogatory”. On October 17, a city civil court in Ahmedabad issued notice to Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh based on a civil defamation suit filed by Reliance Infrastructure Limited for his claims about the Rafale deal. Singh had referred to the controversial agreement as a “big scam”.