Billionaire Anil Ambani's Reliance Group Tuesday said it has decided to withdraw the Rs 5,000 crore civil defamation suits filed against Congress leaders and National Herald newspaper, saying it believes their statements and article on the Rafale fighter jet deal were made for political purposes in the run up to the general elections.
The suits were filed in an Ahmendabad court and were being heard in the court of city civil and sessions judge P J Tamakuwala.
"We believe that the defamatory statements by certain individuals and corporate bodies with regard to the offset agreement between Reliance Group and Dassault Aviation were made for political purposes in the run up to the Lok Sabha election 2019 that have concluded on Sunday, May 19, 2019. Besides, the subject matter is pending for adjudication before the Hon'ble Supreme Court," the group said in a statement.
It therefore "has decided to withdraw the defamation suits filed by it against these individuals and corporate bodies," the statement said without naming anybody.
The Congress party and its president Rahul Gandhi had over the past few months alleged corruption in the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and claimed that Ambani's group got Rs 30,000 crore of benefit by way of getting offset contracts of the deal.
Reliance Group had filed defamation suits against some Congress leaders but not against Gandhi.
"We have intimated the defendants that we are going to withdraw the suits against them," the complainant's lawyer, Rasesh Parikh, told PTI in Ahmedabad.
P S Champaneri, the lawyer representing the National Herald and some other defendants, said he was told by the Reliance Group's counsel that he received instructions from his client to withdraw the defamation suits against them.
The formal process to withdraw the suits will be taken up in the court when it resumes after the summer vacation, Champaneri said.
Reliance Defence, Reliance Infrastructure and Reliance Aerostructure-- part of the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Group-- had earlier filed civil defamation suits against Congress leaders including Sunil Jakhar, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Oommen Chandy, Ashok Chavan, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sanjay Nirupam and Shaktisinh Gohil, and some journalists and news organisations like the National Herald.
The defamation suits were also filed against the National Herald's editor Zafar Agha, and Vishwadeepak, the author of a news article published by it.
Before going for summer vacation, the court was hearing applications moved by the defendants questioning the territorial jurisdiction of the court in Ahmedabad to hear such suits.
The complainants said the defendants made libelous and derogatory statements against the Reliance Group and its chairman Anil Ambani pertaining to the Rafale fighter jet deal and his firms.
They asked the defendants to "cease and desist" from levelling allegations against the company in connection with the Rafale deal.
The defamation suit filed against the National Herald pertained to an article published by it, titled 'Anil Ambani floated Reliance Defence 10 days before Modi announced Rafale deal'.
The article "misleads the general public to believe that undue business favours are being extended to them by the government of the day," the petition said.
It conveys a "negative image" and "adversely affects the public perception" of Reliance Group and its chairman Ambani, it said. It has caused "considerable damage" to the reputation and goodwill of plaintiff firms, it said, seeking damages of Rs 5,000 crore.