The Bombay High Court quashed proceedings initiated by a local court against Tata Sons’ former chairman Ratan Tata, its current chairman N Chandrasekaran and eight directors of the firm in a criminal defamation case filed by Nusli Wadia.
In December 2018, a magistrate court in the city issued notices to Ratan Tata and the others in the criminal defamation case filed by Wadia. Wadia filed the case in 2016 after he was voted out of the boards of some Tata Group companies.
Tata and others then approached the high court seeking to quash and set aside the proceedings initiated against them. A division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre on Monday quashed and set aside the proceedings.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Ratan Tata, earlier told the court that the defamation case was because of a fallout of a corporate dispute.
He said the entire case was filed with complete non-application of mind. “The case is only a fallout of a corporate dispute between Ratan Tata and Nusli Wadia, who is a strong supporter of Cyrus Mistry,” Singhvi argued.
Wadia, in his complaint before the magistrate, claimed that Tata and others made defamatory statements against him after they removed Cyrus Mistry on October 24, 2016 as the group chairman of Tata Sons.
Wadia was on the board as an independent director of group companies like Indian Hotels Company, that runs the Taj group of hotels, TCS, Tata Motors and Tata Steel, among others.
He was voted out by shareholders at a specially convened general meeting between December 2016 and February 2017. Wadia said he approached the magistrates court as he was not satisfied with the explanation given by the respondents (Tata and others) following his letters to them.
He, therefore, initiated defamation proceedings against Tata and others under Indian Penal Code Section 500. Singhvi argued before the high court that what the complainant, Wadia, has termed as defamatory is wrong and not “defamatory per se”.
“The November 2016 letters and minutes of the meeting circulated by Tata Sons to its group companies only sought for Wadia’s removal as he was acting against the company’s interest,” Singhvi said.