Venkataramanan to challenge court order on defamation against Mistry in HC

Cyrus Mistry
R Venkataramanan, trustee, Tata Trusts will challenge the Sessions Court order, which quashed the criminal defamation suit filed by him against Cyrus Mistry, the former chairman of Tata Sons and his family investment firms.

Zulfiquar Memon, Managing Partner of MZM Legal, a boutique law firm representing Venkataramanan, termed the order as 'perverse'.  He said that Venkataramananwill challenge the order in the High Court as "the sessions court has unfortunately exceeded its jurisdiction in revision". Memon claimed that "the merits of the matter were never argued in the court, which has suo moto ruled on merits of the case”.

In his complaint, Venkataramanan had alleged that the email sent by Mistry to the board of Tata Sons and trustees on October 25 — a day after he was removed from the top job, contained statements vis-à-vis fraudulent transactions at AirAsia India that were defamatory to him and had sought Rs 500 crore as damages. Based on his complaint, a Magistrate’s court had issued summons to all the accused persons on July 4.

In his 14 page-order, G O Agrawal, Additional Session Judge at the Sessions Court said that the complainant has not presented any evidence to support his allegation that it was Mistry who had leaked the confidential email written to the board of Tata Sons and Tata Trustees. "Of course there's nothing (to prove) that he (Mistry) leaked email to the press, media houses, and social media outlets," Agrawal said. He noted that the language of the e-mail was 'moderate' and 'heart-touching', and primarily dealt with protecting the interests of Tata Sons.

Agrawal pointed out that the complainant 'supressed' vital information before the lower court. He was referring to Venkataramanan not disclosing the fact that the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) had admitted an appeal against the order of the NCLT. Calling it a “glaring feature”, the judge noted that NCLAT order of May 4 was passed before the filing of the defamation complaint and hence was “within the knowledge of the complainant”. The judge stated that had the material been placed before the magistrate, a “different conclusion” would have been reached. Hence the failure to produce the order of the NCLAT was “tantamount to suppression and vitiates the order of issuance of process”.

In his order the judge also pointed at several procedural lapses, which included the magistrate not examining the complainant Venkataramanan on oath. “It seems that the complainant instituted the complaint so that the applicants/accused persons bow down before him and do not raise their grievances before any authority,” the judge said in the order.

MZM's Memon said the Supreme Court has held through several precedents that the defence of the accused cannot be looked into at the stage of issuance of process. "As such we believe this order shall not stand the judicial scrutiny of High Court. We have full faith in the judiciary which shall correct the illegality and impropriety," he said.

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