Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh has been slapped with a Rs 5,000 crore defamation notice for making "false, distorted and malicious insinuations" against the Reliance Group.
The notice by the Reliance Group of companies sent to the AAP leader refers to Singh's February 13 press briefing in which he had raised "issues" regarding the purchase of 36 Rafael fighter jets from France in a government-to-government contract.
It said the press briefing contained statements about the group that "are per se defamatory and constitute serious libel".
The business group, it said, had "been seriously defamed and suffered considerable damage to their reputation and goodwill".
"Our clients reserve the rights to claim damages which at present they estimate at Rs 5,000 crore. The press briefing has grossly prejudiced and/or eroded and/or affected the image and/or reputation of our clients and their group of companies and exposed them to contempt," said the notice sent through a Reliance counsel.
Claiming that the briefing by Singh was "clearly a motivated campaign... at the instance of corporate rivals to deliberately besmirch" the Reliance Group and "prejudicially affect their commercial interests", the notice said Singh as a custodian of public interests should have spoken "based only on irrefutable evidence".
"You seem to be under the mistaken impression that freedom of expression gives you the licence to behave irresponsibly and make false, misleading and distorted statements to suit your political interests."
It quoted Singh as saying that a "contract worth Rs 22,000 crore to manufacture parts of the jets has been awarded to Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence, which he (Singh) said lacked experience of even one year in the respective field.
"This all proves beyond doubt that this deal is the deal of scams."
The notice said that Singh had "deliberately" ignored the fact that Reliance Defence and its associated companies have 35 industrial licences to manufacture defence-related products.
The group also owns India's largest shipyard in the private sector in Gujarat which is also the second largest dry dock in the world "with assets worth thousands of crores".
It also said that Reliance was also awarded a contract for five warships from the Indian Navy in May 2011 besides other defence contracts it had won through competitive processes.
The notice sought an "unconditional apology and retraction of the press briefing" from the AAP leader.