Cyrus On The Backfoot?
Cyrus Mistry is facing criminal defamation charges. And the battle continues
Photo Credit : Reuters
If the recent developments in the Tata-Mistry spat are any indication, the battle is far from over. The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate hearing the criminal defamation complaint filed by managing trustee of Tata Trusts, R. Venkataramanan (also addressed as Venkat) against Cyrus Mistry, and others for allegedly making false statements against him, has issued summons to all accused in the complaint.
Mistry and the directors of the companies Cyrus Investments and Sterling Investments have been asked to remain present before the Court on 24 August after which they would face trial for the charges of criminal defamation under Sections 499, 500 and 501 of the IPC.
Venkat has sought Rs 500 crore in damages through the complaint, in which, he has reportedly said that Mistry’s 25 October 2016 e-mail to Tata Sons directors and trustees of Tata Trusts contained “defamatory statements” about him. Mistry had alleged about “certain fraudulent transactions of Rs 22 crore” involving non-existent parties in India and Singapore at AirAsia India and had stated that Venkat considered these transactions as “non-material” and “didn’t encourage any further study” of it.
On 24 October, Mistry was sacked by the Tata Sons Board, following which he wrote the e-mail that contained allegations.
According to the complaint, the e-mail sent to the Board, which then found its way to the media, has caused “irreparable” damages to Venkat’s reputation among his colleagues, family, friends and society.
Cyrus Investments and Sterling Investment, which hold stake in Tata Sons, had moved the Mumbai tribunal against oppression of minority shareholders and mismanagement of Tata companies. The tribunal had dismissed the petition citing that the investment firms have insufficient shareholding to seek a legal recourse. It had also declined to grant a waiver on the maintainability of the petition. The companies then appealed against the tribunal’s order at NCLAT, New Delhi.
The Magistrate’s Court has upheld arguments that Article 21 of the Constitution of India, which is right to life is inclusive of right to live with dignity and that a millionaire and mason are equal in the eyes of law under Article 14 of the Constitution.
Mistry’s office issued a statement saying that “subversion of courts will fail” and he “won’t be muzzled” by the defamation case filed by Venkat. “The attempt to initiate criminal prosecution for alleged defamation is an ill-advised and immature proxy battle through Venkataraman...” the statement said.
25 October 2016: Cyrus Mistry’s e-mail to Tata Sons directors and trustees of Tata Trusts contained “defamatory statements” about Venkatramanan, Managing Trustee of Tata Trusts. Mistry had alleged about “certain fraudulent transactions of Rs 22 crore” involving non-existent parties in India and Singapore at AirAsia India and had stated that Venkat considered these transactions “non-material” and “didn’t encourage any further study” of it
7 June: Criminal defamation complaint filed in Esplanade Court by Venkat and statements verified
29 June: Matter heard before Justice Krishna G. Paldewar and MZM Legal was representing Venkat
4 July: Order given and process issued against Mistry and all other accused named in the complaint. Mistry to face charges under section 499, 500 and 501 of IPC and asked to appear before the court on 24 August