Did Reliance Industries Ltd Plant Stories To Tarnish Nusli Wadia?

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Mukesh, Dirubhai
Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd./ Dhirubhai Ambani, Founder of Reliance Industries Ltd.

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) had allegedly planted a story against Bombay Dyeing Chairman, Nusli Wadia, in a now defunct tabloid, The Daily, on August 17, 1993, The Economic Times reported, on November 23, 2015.

Wadia had, according to the ET report, filed a criminal and defamation suit against the tabloid, in October of the same year.

Last week, after more than 20 years, Rajiv K Bajaj, the then editor of The Daily, filed an affidavit before the Bombay High Court, alleging that, the report, which appeared in The Daily was part of an underlying business deal between Kamal Morarka — the owner of the newspaper, and head of the construction and engineering company, Gannon Dunkerley — and Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL).

According to the report, Bajaj was allegedly pushed into carrying the reports by Anthony (aka Tony) Jesudasan, and Deepak Neogi, who worked as PR officials of the undivided Reliance group, and businessman Vijay Kalantri, who was close to Morarka, and often passed on instructions on his behalf. Bajaj alleged that, subsequent to the publication of the reports, Gannon Dunkerley received several orders from Reliance.

Both Morarka and Kalantri, reportedly denied the allegations, while Jesudasan, and Neogi, did not comment, when contacted by the ET. Jesudasan, and Neogi, joined the Anil Ambani group after they left Reliance Industries.

“I am not aware of this affidavit but I am appalled to hear from you that Rajiv Bajaj has said this in the affidavit. This is absolutely untrue. I have never interfered with the editorial functions of my newspapers though I have always given my full support to my editors and this is to the knowledge of Rajiv Bajaj,” said Morarka, responding to an email, according to the ET.

WHAT THE AFFIDAVIT SAYS:

“A day before the reports were published, Kalantri visited Bajaj’s Daily office, and handed him papers signed by 72 members of Parliament, accusing Nusli Wadia, of having multiple passports, and being a drug dealer,” Bajaj alleged, in the affidavit.

He was told that, the papers, purported to be findings of the Intelligence Bureau, were received from the office of Reliance Industries, and had been handed over to the then home minister Shankar Rao Chavhan.

“Neogi, who was then reporting to Jesudasan, handed over the articles, along with the headings and blurbs, with the instruction that the pieces should be carried ad litteram,” alleged Bajaj.

Jesudasan told him that, if he (Bajaj) did not publish the articles, someone else in the Daily would. Bajaj, whose wife Amita Nayar Bajaj, was then the Delhi Bureau Chief of The Afternoon, another paper controlled by Morarka, alleged that, there were hints that he could get into trouble if he did follow the instructions. Jesudasan, and Neogi, were not respondents in the case filed by Wadia.

A few days after the reports appeared, Kalantri asked Bajaj, to accompany him for a meeting, with Dhirubhai Ambani, at the Reliance office, in Maker IV, Nariman Point. The elder Ambani complimented him on the articles.

Bajaj was in financial difficulties at the time of the publication of the story. He was assured that his wife, and daughter, who were staying in Delhi then, would join him in Mumbai, once the newspaper runs the stories.

Bajaj, according to the ET, filed the affidavit on the civil matter after reading a newspaper report that the High Court has reopened the criminal defamation case after 15 years. Bajaj, in the affidavit, said, he is willing to depose before the court, and give evidence.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 1993:

Around five months after the Bombay serial blast, The Daily carried a string of reports about Nushi Wadia, with the allegations that, Wadia, chairman of Bombay Dyeing, was a Pakistani spy, who had  links with Dawood Ibrahim, and was involved in smuggling drugs, as well as, laundering money through a bank, in Nepal.

Reacting to the report, Wadia, who was planning his move to take control of Britannia, in October 1993, filed civil, and criminal defamation suits against the The Daily.  The suit was leveled against managing editor Phiroze J Dastur, printer and publisher Mohan Nair, and Daily Printing & Allied Enterprises, the corporate entity which owned ‘The Daily’.

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