The Editors Guild of India on Thursday criticised the arrest warrant against journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta in connection with a defamation case filed against him by the Adani Group in 2017, and urged the conglomerate to withdraw the case.

The association condemned the use of “intimidatory tactics” against journalists by influential corporate houses. “The issue of a non-bailable warrant by a lower court against Mr Thakurta is another example of how intolerant the business houses have become to any criticism,” it said in a statement. “Routinely they have targeted independent and intrepid journalists by using the very instruments that provide media the necessary protection.”

The Editors Guild noted that corporates were using criminal defamation laws to avoid scrutiny by journalists and the action against Thakurta was an example of that. It added that the judiciary had become a part of the attempts to restrict the freedom of press.

The association spoke about the need to ensure that defamation laws are not used to target independent journalism. “The Editors Guild of India strongly urges the Adani group to withdraw the criminal case against Mr Thakurta,” it said. “We further urge the higher judiciary to take cognizance of the fact that laws such as a criminal defamation are often used to impede freedom of speech, and issue guidelines to ensure that wanton use of such laws does not serve as a deterrent to a free press.”

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The arrest warrant against Thakurta was issued by a court in Gujarat’s Kutch district on Tuesday. Judicial Magistrate Pradeep Soni said that Thakurta had been charged under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with defamation, and directed the Nizamuddin police station in Delhi to produce the journalist before him.

The Adani Group had filed a defamation suit against Thakurta and news website The Wire in 2017 over an article by the journalist that claimed the Centre had amended Special Economic Zone rules to facilitate duty reimbursements for raw materials to Adani Power Limited, leading to a benefit of Rs 500 crore.

However, in July 2018, a Gujarat court set aside the criminal defamation plea complaint, and accompanying summons to the website. Then in May 2019, the Adani Group withdrew the case against The Wire. Thakurta’s lawyer said that the Adani Group had withdrawn complaints against everyone except him.

The article was first published on June 14, 2017, in the Economic and Political Weekly, which later removed it following notices from the Adani Group. The Wire republished the article on June 19, 2017, with the permission of the Economic and Political Weekly. The controversy surrounding the article and the decision of the Economic and Political Weekly management to pull it down had led to Thakurta resigning from the post of editor the following month.