The Adani Group has mounted a defamation case against freelance journalist Ravi Nair who is based in Delhi. Nair has been a frequent contributor to AdaniWatch. The complaint against Nair was filed in the court of Gandhinagar in Adani’s home state of Gujarat and is dated 19 August 2021.
Adani’s case against Nair ostensibly pertains to 26 tweets, but his hard-hitting contributions to AdaniWatch also feature in Adani’s complaint. The vast majority of the tweets clearly constitute expressions of opinion on matters already in the public domain.
The Delhi Union of Journalists condemned this attack on Nair. In a media release referring to Nair’s case and another, the union said ‘these attacks constitute a continuum of attacks and threats to independent journalists and journalism in India today’.
In the month preceding the filing of Adani’s complaint, Nair had authored stories on the Group’s troubled Pench coal-power project and on the shadowy players involved in offshore investors in Adani companies. The content of these stories was compelling. Adani Enterprises Limited has not explicitly included these AdaniWatch articles as part of its complaint, but the timing of the case and the innocuous nature of the material on which the complaint purports to be based suggest that the AdaniWatch stories constitute a significant part of the motivation behind Adani’s defamation case against Nair.
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In July 2022, Nair was served with an arrest warrant by Delhi police, even though he had received no prior notice of the defamation case from the Adani Group. He is on bail and will appear in the magistrate’s court of Gandhinagar on 18 November. Gandhinagar is over 900 km from Nair’s home base of Delhi.
According to NewsLaundry, police arrived at Nair’s Delhi home at 4.30 pm on 25 July to serve him the warrant. Nair described the action as ‘harassment’ and questioned how an arrest warrant could precede notification of the complaint on which it is based.
It's not the first time Adani entities have filed cases against journalists in courts on the home turf of Group founder Gautam Adani. In January 2021, senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta was served an arrest warrant arising from another court in Gujarat. That court has issued gag orders that have prevented Paranjoy, fellow journalist Abir Dasgupta, and the platform NewsClick from reporting on the affairs of the massive Adani Group, whose business activities pervade all areas of the Indian economy.
The use of an arrest warrant against Paranjoy was condemned by media organisations, including the Editors’ Guild of India, the International Federation of Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Adani’s pursuit of Nair has also been criticised by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
‘The criminal defamation suit by Adani Group against freelance journalist Ravi Nair is an attack on press freedom and a part of the conglomerate’s tactic of initiating strategic litigation against journalists,’ said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director, in Madrid. ‘India’s authorities must ensure that powerful business groups cannot abuse the country’s legal system to silence critics.’
According to the CPJ, the Adani Group, which is controlled by Gautam Adani, the fourth richest man in the world, has previously filed defamation suits against journalists including Bodhisatva Ganguli, Pavan Burugula, and Nehal Chaliawala of the Economic Times, Latha Venkatesh and Nimesh Shah of CNBC TV18, freelance journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, news website Newsclick, and the news magazine Economic and Policy Weekly.
AdaniWatch coordinator Geoff Law said that Adani’s behaviour should be abhorrent in a proud democracy like India’s.