Ambani asks Cong leaders to 'cease & desist' from speaking on Rafale; Party says won't be cowed down
Facing allegations of getting undue benefits from the multi-billion dollar Rafale deal, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group has sent legal notices to several Congress leaders asking them to "cease and desist" from levelling such charges, which was promptly dubbed by the party as evidence of a "nexus between the BJP and the corporate world".
The Congress leaders said they will not be scared or silenced by such notices, which have been sent to several spokespersons and other leaders of the party.
The notices have been served amid a month-long offensive planned by the Congress on the Rafale deal under which top party leaders will be holding press conferences and demonstrations across the country targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government.
Reliance Group has denied the allegations relating to the deal under which France's Dassault is supplying the fighter jets and has entered into a joint venture with a Anil Ambani-led group firm to meet its offset requirement of the contract.
Ambani recently wrote to Congress president Rahul Gandhi on the deal saying his party has been "misinformed, misdirected and misled" by "malicious vested interests and corporate rivals" on the issue.
Gandhi has been attacking the government for allegedly inking the deal at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated to benefit "one businessman".
Speaking to reporters in Chandigarh, Congress MP Sunil Jakhar said he has received the notice asking him to refrain from "making allegations" on the Rafale deal.
Jakhar, however, asserted that the Rafale matter was a serious national security issue for his party and alleged the legal notice was the result of a "nexus between the BJP and the corporate world".
The Punjab Congress chief and Lok Sabha member, who had raised the issue in Parliament as well, said, "I reiterate, my aeroplane making skills (as demonstrated in Lok Sabha) are better than yours", as he tweeted a picture of a paper plane made from the notice.
"It is a dark day for the democracy. An industrialist serving legal notice to an elected representative is a serious issue," Jakhar said while asserting that the Congress will continue to fight the nexus between capitalists and BJP.
The Congress leaders said the notices have been issued by Mumbai-based advocates on behalf of Reliance firms to Randeep Surjewala, Ashok Chavan, Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Sunil Jakhar among others, saying they were making "derogatory and defamatory statements in the press and electronic media in relation to the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft by India from France in a government-to-government contract."
The notices have come days before a series of press conferences lined by the Congress across the country from August 25 to September 6 on Rafale deal. The party has also planned district and state-level agitations starting September 7.
The cautionary 'cease and desist' notice as been served on behalf of three group firms -- Reliance Infrastructure, Reliance Defence and Reliance Aerostructure Ltd.
"As a cautionary measure, our clients strongly urge you to avoid, cease and desist from making any unverified, speculative, incorrect, false, frivolous, misleading derogatory and defamatory statements against them on such a sensitive subject relating to national security," one Congress leader quoted from the notice.
"At the same time our clients reserve the right to take recourse to all remedies available to them under the law of land for the protection of their name, brand, reputation and goodwill in case of any scurrilous statements being made against them," the notice further said.
Asked about the notice, Congress spokesperson Shaktising Gohil said at an AICC briefing that he has received two such notices.
He said one was received earlier and the another one was received yesterday, which claim he has caused loss to the company to the extent of Rs 50,000 crore.
"I had received a notice earlier and had sent a reply saying whatever has been stated is on the basis of documents in public domain. The notices show that the prime minister is worried and is now getting back at the Congress by serving such notices," he said.
Gohil said Congress leaders are placing on record information already in public domain and are speaking out in the national interest against alleged corruption in the deal.
"We want to assure all industrialists that we are not against those who are doing business honestly. We are with them. We will not be cowed down by anyone and neither fear from anyone and will continue to highlight the corruption in the Rafale deal," he told reporters.
Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said she has been served a notice too.
"The promptness that they have shown to send these notices is similar to their eagerness to manufacture defence aircrafts as soon as they formed a company and Modi government obliged. But will not be subdued and silenced till we don't get our answers on the scam," he said.
Another Congress leader Jaiveer Shergill said he has received the notice too, threatening him with legal consequences if he speaks on Rafale deal.
"My reply - I am a Congress soldier, a proud Punjabi who does not get scared with such notices - taxpayer of this country deserves to know why they paid extra Rs 42000 crore. The fact that Anil Ambani sent us a notice exposes that there is something fishy in the Rafale deal," he said.