96349Essar can't fulfil 36 forest clearance conditions, but files defamation against NGO
- Jul 2, 2014http://www.legallyindia.com/201406234810/Bar-Bench-Litigation/case-files-essar-v-greenpeace
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
"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.