News channel NDTV has been sued by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for Rs 10,000 crore over the channel's coverage of the Rafale deal, NDTV said in a statement on Thursday. The channel called the move 'an unsophisticated warning to the media to stop doing its job'. The matter has been listed for hearing on 26 October in a court in Ahmedabad.
According to the statement, the lawsuit was filed against NDTV's weekly show, Truth vs Hype, that aired on 29 September, which discussed whether the Reliance Defence (that belongs to the Reliance Group) was transparently chosen as the partner for Dassault Aviation in a deal where India bought 36 fighter jets. The channel said that top executives of Reliance Group had ignored multiple requests to appear on the show or comment on the matter.
NDTV denied the charges, stating that the defamation charges are "a heavy-handed attempt by Anil Ambani's group to suppress the facts and prevent the media from doing its job " asking questions about a defence deal and seeking answers that are very much in public interest".
The channel clarified its role by stating that the show aired days after Francois Hollande " who was the President of France when the deal was struck " questioned the role of Reliance Defence. They claimed that the show reported all sides of the story including Dassault's denial that it had been under any pressure to select Reliance Defence. "The panellists, in a balanced discussion, examined whether issues like Reliance's vast debt and record in defence manufacturing made it a suitable choice for Dassault in India," the statement reads.
NDTV CEO Suparna Singh also tweeted about the lawsuit, calling it a "brazen attempt at harassment and intimidation".
NDTV has been sued by Anil Ambani's Reliance for 10,000 crores in an AHMEDABAD court. For our coverage of Rafale. We will fight this brazen attempt at harassment and intimidation.
" Suparna Singh (@Suparna_Singh) October 18, 2018
A huge controversy over the Rafale deal erupted in India after a report in the French media quoted Hollande as saying that the selection of the Indian company in the Rafale deal was done at the behest of New Delhi.
Hollande said that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for the French aerospace giant in the Rafale deal and France did not have a choice.
In August, Reliance Group companies had filed a Rs 5,000 crore defamation suit against the Congress-owned National Herald, claiming an article published in the newspaper regarding the Rafale fighter deal was "libellous and derogatory".
Earlier, the group had sent legal notices to several Congress leaders, asking them to "cease and desist" from levelling such allegations against the company in connection with the Rafale deal.