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96349Essar can't fulfil 36 forest clearance conditions, but files defamation against NGO

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  • karmayog - tanya
    Jul 2, 2014

      By Prachi Shrivastava Monday, 23 June 2014, 13:40 Bar, Bench & Litigation

      Essar v Greenpeace case files: Dhruve Liladhar for Essar; Mihir Desai for
      Greenpeace alleges SLAPP & misusing IB reports

      The Essar Group last Monday tried to invoke a critical Intelligence Bureau
      (IB) report in its Rs 500 crore defamation action against the India chapter
      of international environmental NGO Greenpeace, in parallel to a second
      action in a Madhya Pradesh sessions court.
      Greenpeace has called the case a strategic litigation against public
      participation (SLAPP) to "stifle voices of opposition" against Essar's
      allegedly illegal coal mining plans in India's forests.

      Essar had, in January, filed the suit in the Bombay high court against
      Greenpeace, followed by a case at the district and sessions court Waidhan in
      Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, claiming that the NGO was inciting local people
      against Essar's mining plans in the forests of Mahan.

      In the Bombay high court petition, Essar claimed that the NGO, in protesting
      against the mining, had:

      "unfurled [a banner on Essar's seven-floor Mumbai building with] a
      statement purportedly by the Essar Group that "WE KILL FORESTS". [.] the
      contents of the banner were not only false and malicious but also ex facie
      offensive, insulting, distasteful and per se defamatory and libellous of the
      plaintiff and the Essar Group."


      "[Greenpeace] also began to hand out leaflets outside [Essar's] property.
      In the said leaflet, once again scurrilous remarks were made against the
      Essar Group of Companies that it was responsible for the destruction of the
      forests. [.] the contents of the leaflets were not only false and malicious
      but also ex facie offensive, insulting, distasteful and per se defamatory
      and libellous of [Essar]"

      Dhruve Liladhar & Co (DLC) advised Essar on the petition. DLC, who acted for
      Essar, did not respond to an email seeking comment since last week. Update
      27 February: DLC has responded and confirmed that DLC partner Darshan Mehta
      is leading on the case in Mumbai but not representing Essar in Madhya

      Greenpeace has instructed Mumbai advocate Mihir Desai and has filed a
      response in an affidavit stating:

      "[.] that the present suit is nothing else but what is known as a SLAPP
      suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) essentially a suit
      filed in order to prevent public participation in matters that affect the
      public interest."

      "The Suit is filed with mala fide motives purely to suppress any criticism
      of the ill deeds of the Essar Group. It is a classic case of corporate
      culpability and steamrolling by which they seek to silence all those who
      make genuine criticism of their environmentally degrading, ecologically
      damaging actions against the interest of thousands of villagers whose
      livelihood and culture depends on the forests."

      Greenpeace campaigner Arundhati Muthu said: "We stand by everything we've
      said about Essar. We have evidence to back it. We are willing to provide
      that in court. Essar is clearly trying to bulldoze its way. Now they've even
      brought an IB report into the mix.
      "We had a new judge hearing the case. Essar counsel attempted to include the
      IB report as evidence to which the judge asked what the case was about. On
      hearing that it was a defamation/trespass suit he asked how the report was
      relevant to the matter at hand. Essar counsel failed to provide a convincing
      reply to which he said he could not allow it to be included unless relevance
      was established," she added.

      The second IB report, "leaked" about a week ago, under the heading,
      "FCRA-registered Greenpeace spearheading a concerted campaign against India's
      energy expansion plans", alleges collusion with its foreign funders and
      incitement of local folk and has recommended cancelling permission given to
      it for collecting funds abroad and the reassessment of its tax compliance.

      Greenpeace had released a statement refuting claims in the IB's first report
      that the NGO was using people-centric issues that worked against India's
      GDP, that it gets money from corporations or the government and that it is
      not transparent in its operations.

      Following the second IB report, Greenpeace had uploaded all its financial
      statements until December 2012 online and released a statement that it was
      being targeted with malicious intent, reported the DNA.

      Greenpeace claimed that Essar has not fulfilled the 36 conditions requisite
      for the company to get a forest usage clearance from the government, and
      therefore alleges illegal commencement of operations in the forest.