Mumbai : Telecom to natural resources conglomerate Aditya Birla Group has claimed Rs 1,000 crore from the Indian Express newspaper saying the newspaper had caused it “serious reputational damage” by carrying articles based on what it said was an alleged “appraisal report” of the Income Tax Department.
Group firm Aditya Birla Management Corp Pvt Ltd (ABMCPL) has also sought a permanent injunction restraining The Indian Express from republishing articles based on the report.
“As one of the largest and most reputed Indian conglomerates, damages of Rs 1,000 crore being claimed by ABMCPL in the said suit can only be said to be the minimum amount of damages which a group of this stature would be entitled to claim,” the company said in a suit filed in the Bombay High Court on February 5.
The company has cited two articles published by the paper — one on January 15 and another on January 31 — in its case.
While an Aditya Birla spokesperson declined to comment n grounds the case was sub-judice, a person familiar with the development said both articles pertained to an ongoing investigation by the Income Tax department and were timed around the same time of hearing of coal block allocation cases. The company has argued that the document on which articles were based are neither “final nor conclusive” and subject to “further process of inquiry and adjudication.”
Anant Goenka, a wholetime director of Indian Express group said “Aditya Birla Group is one of India’s most respected corporate houses. Our job as a journalism-first newspaper is to publish facts, and our story in question does exactly that. It accurately quotes an income tax appraisal report. We stand by our story.” ABMCPL is being represented by Mumbai-based corporate law firm Manilal Kher Ambalal&Co. The law firm’s managing partner, Vikram Trivedi, said that publishing news items on the basis of such “preliminary and confidential report of the investigating authority of the Income Tax Department can only be intended with a view to vitiate the freeness and fairness of the inquiry”.
The company has further argued that the so called appraisal report was a highly confidential document which was not shared with the assessee and therefore not verifiable.