New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to transfer Essar Steel India Ltd’s 250 crore defamation suit against Delhi-based magazine The Caravan.

Caravan’s publisher—Delhi Press Patra Prakashan Ltd—had moved the apex court seeking to transfer the case out of an Ahmedabad city court to a Delhi court in August. This came after Essar Steel sued Caravan for its August edition cover titled Purchasing Power—How Essar Wields Influence Over Indian Government and Finance and a story Doing the Needful: Essar’s Industry of Influence. Essar claimed that at least on 12 counts, the story caused harm to the reputation of the company and the promoter Ruia family. It further claimed that the story did not contain “fair and accurate reporting" and was as such defamatory.

Essar sought to restrain Caravan from circulating this story in print or online. Further, it has sought compensation to the tune of 250 crore for the loss of goodwill and reputation.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing the magazine, argued on Tuesday that none of the actions leading to the alleged defamation had occurred in Ahmedabad, and the appropriate and convenient forum was Delhi. He called Essar’s petition a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suit aimed at harassing the magazine. He said that it was in the interest of justice to transfer the case to Delhi, so that Caravan could produce its witnesses and defend its case.

A bench comprising justices Gopala Gowda and Amitava Roy did not intervene at this stage. The court said that the interest of both the sides had to be considered, and asked Caravan to file its response in the Ahmedabad court, which is due on 9 September.

However, the court granted Caravan the liberty to approach the apex court at a later stage, if the situation arose.

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