Adani Group Civil Defamation Case: Arrest Warrant Issued Against Senior Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

By: Sashwata Saha
22 Jan 2021 4:21:32 PM Journalist, Newshound India Desk

A court in Gujarat’s Kutch district on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant against senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta in a defamation suit filed by the Adani Group. The case pertains to two articles about the business conglomerate that were published first in the Economic and Political Weekly and then in The Wire.


The first report headlined “Did the Adani Group Evade Rs 1,000 Crore in Taxes?” was published in January 2017, while its follow-up “Modi Government’s Rs 500-Crore Bonanza to the Adani Group” followed six months later in June. Guha Thakurta, then the editor of EPW, had co-written the articles with other journalists. 


The articles, as can be ascertained from their titles, alleged that the government unduly favoured the Adani Group, helping it expand and evade taxes.


Judicial magistrate Pradeep Soni issued a direction to the Nizamuddin police station in New Delhi, asking them to arrest Guha Thakurta, who “stands charged with a complaint under section 500 of IPC [defamation]”, reports news agency PTI.


Guha Thakurta’s lawyer Anand Yagnik told PTI that they haven’t received any intimation (from the court). “This information (on an arrest warrant) has come to us from the media,” he said. He said the Adani Group had withdrawn complaints against everybody except his client.


Soon after publication, the Adani conglomerate’s legal advisors sent legal notices to both publications, asking them to take down the articles, claiming they were defamatory. While the EPW took them down, which led Guha Thakurta to resign from his position as editor, The Wire refused to comply with the notice. This led the Adanis to file an injunction against the Siddharth Vardarajan headed online publication. It also filed two cases against the authors and the editors of The Wire in two different courts in Gujarat: a civil defamation suit in Bhuj and a criminal defamation case in Mundra.


In 2018, the Principal Senior Civil Judge of Bhuj turned down the injunction request in the civil defamation suit. “The article could stay on The Wire’s website,” the court ruled, “subject to some minor tweaking.” In this case: the removal of a sentence and an adverb. In May 2019, the group withdrew all its cases against The Wire.


“The magazine and portal (which published the article) are not responsible (for criminal defamation), the case against both of his co-authors has been withdrawn but you don’t withdraw the complaint against [another] author,” Yagnik questioned. “We have moved a discharge application,” he added.


With the pandemic affecting court hearings last year, the case filed by Adani had come up before the court on Monday and the court had said it would pass an appropriate order.


Guha Thakurta is also at the centre of another litigation initiated by the company. Last year, a group company, Adani Power Rajasthan Limited, approached an Ahmedabad court, seeking a gag order on the news website Newsclick from reporting on the company, among other things. Their main objection is to a series of articles written by Guha Thakurta and his colleagues on the company allegedly benefiting from former Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra’s judgments.


The court granted an ex-parte gag order (without hearing the other side). This is currently being challenged by the publication.


The Editors Guild of India, DIGIPUB and the Media Foundation have all decried the move. The EGI said, “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. Routinely they have targeted independent and intrepid journalists by using the very instruments that provide media with the necessary protection.” 


All three media guilds have expressed their solidarity with the senior journalist. The Wire has also released a statement to the same effect.


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