HC sees red in Greenpeace act against Essar; seeks explanation

Written by Press Trust of India | Mumbai | Updated: Jan 29 2014, 05:48am hrs
EssarThe Bombay High Court asked Greenpeace India to remove from its websites, posters, leaflets and pamphlets. Reuters
The Bombay High Court today asked Greenpeace India to remove from its websites, posters, leaflets and pamphlets the alleged defamatory content against Essar Group, saying the environmental group was prima facie tarnishing the image of a well-known business house.

On a plea made by Greenpeace India counsel Mihir Desai, Justice S J Kathawala gave the NGO time till February 12 to file an affidavit to explain its recent act of unfurling a huge banner allegedly defaming the Group.

The Court was hearing a Rs 500-crore defamation suit filed by Essar against Greenpeace India and two others. Saying that a prima facie case seems to be made out against the defendants, the Judge also asked Greenpeace to change their defamatory pamphlet which said "we love forests, Essar kills forests" to "we love forests, Essar cuts trees".

After hearing Essar's lawyers Venkatesh Dhond and Darshan Mehta, the Court restrained the defendants from further distributing pamphlets or leaflets carrying defamatory material against the Indian corporate entity.

The Judge also extended till February 12 his earlier order of January 24 restraining the defendants from entering Essar House premises in Central Mumbai or holding agitation or distribution of leaflets near its building.

The representatives of Greenpeace, Clear Sweep and Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, named in the suit, on January 22, had unfurled a 180-ft long banner allegedly containing defamatory content from the terrace of Essar House at Mahalaxmi, Central Mumbai. Police detained them and later released them on bail. Besides Greenpeace, the other defendants are Clear Sweep and Mahan Sangharsh Samiti.

Clear Sweep had sought an appointment with Essar House to give a free demonstration of cleaning the facade of the building. On the pretext of cleaning, demonstrators entered the building and hung the defamatory banner, the suit claimed.

In its January 24 order, the Judge had said "I am prima facie satisfied that the defendants had conspired to enter the premises of the plaintiffs through misrepresentation and thereafter to unfurl the afore-stated hoardings and banners and damage the image and reputation of the plaintiffs."

"The defendants, by holding demonstration and showing leaflets containing defamatory material have tarnished the image, reputation and goodwill of the plaintiffs."