“If you felt that you have been defamed by what Prashant Bhushan and I said, then we are the real culprits”
Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal wants to know why he hasn’t been sued.
In a letter to Reliance Industries promoter Mukesh Ambani, which was made public on Thursday, Mr. Kejriwal asked why defamation notices had been issued to TV channels that broadcast his allegations of corruption against the industrialist last year, while no action had been taken against the original sources of those allegations — Mr. Kejriwal himself and his party colleague Prashant Bhushan. “I find it quite perplexing. If you felt that you have been defamed by what Prashant Bhushan and I said, then we are the real culprits and, if you had to send a defamation notice, it should have been to us. The TV channels merely broadcast what we said,” says the English translation of the letter posted on the party’s website. “It is evident that your sole purpose of sending this notice was to steamroll the TV channels into subservience.”
While a Reliance Industries representative confirmed that he was aware of the letter written to Mr. Ambani, the company did not reply to The Hindu’s queries on why notices had been sent only to the channels and not to Mr. Kejriwal.
Last October and November, Mr. Kejriwal held two press conferences at which he and Mr. Bhushan alleged that Mr. Ambani held black money in Swiss bank accounts and that Reliance Industries had artificially lowered production in its KG gas wells in order to blackmail the government on gas pricing. Reliance had immediately denied that there was any truth in the “irresponsible allegations made at the behest of vested interests.”
However, earlier this month, news channels which had carried a live broadcast of Mr. Kejriwal’s press conferences were slapped with a legal notice by Mr. Ambani’s lawyers, AS Dayal and Associates. “Live telecast of these press conferences amounts to permanent publication of defamatory material relating to our client by you,” said the notice. Interestingly, notices were also sent to CNN-IBN and other channels of the Network 18 group, in which the Reliance group holds an indirect shareholding.
Several channels said they had replied to these notices, and Reliance does not seem to have taken any further action against them yet. “Our legal department has responded to them saying we have played the live press conference and have carried RIL’s subsequent response,” said one channel head who did not wish to be named.
Mr. Kejriwal warned Mr. Ambani against trying to “intimidate” the media. “There may be some who may have done wrong things themselves. Such mediapersons may succumb to your pressure,” he said.“However, the majority… keep the interest of the country at heart even today... History is witness that whenever the judiciary, bureaucracy and legislature crumbled, it is the honest fourth pillar, comprising such mediapersons, that kept democracy alive.”