New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a notice to R Venkataramanan, a former managing trustee of Tata Trusts, on an appeal by the Shapoorji Pallonji Group challenging the quashing of its defamation case against him.
"This is nothing but a corporate war," a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, who appeared for the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, said the defamation complaint filed by the firm was erroneously quashed by the Bombay High Court.
The Bombay High Court had quashed the process followed for the defamation complaint filed by Shapoorji Pallonji & Co against Venkataramanan. The court had ruled that the press note dated May 30, 2018, issued by Venkataramanan did not amount to defamation.
In October 2018, the magistrate's court at Ballard Pier had issued the process of summoning Venkataramanan after the Shapoorji Pallonji Group filed the criminal defamation case against him.
In the complaint, the Shapoorji Pallonji Group, which owns a 18.6% stake in the Tata Group, had alleged that Venkataramanan had made some comments in a press note that were false and defamatory to the group.
In the press note, Venkataramanan had allegedly stated that in his capacity as non-executive director of Air Asia India, he had been wrongly named as an accused by the CBI.
The Bombay High Court had said in its March 27 order ruled that there was nothing defamatory in the press note, and quashed the process issued against Venkataramanan.
"I am of the view that the words which are used in the press note are not at all defamatory. They are moderate and temperate. They do not invite contempt, ridicule or hatred against the persons mentioned in the press note and much less the complainant," the high court judge had said.
Low-cost airline AirAsia India is a 51:49 joint venture between Tata Sons and Malaysian carrier AirAsia.
In an FIR registered on May 29, 2018, the CBI named Venkataramanan and other top executives of the AirAsia group for allegedly entering into a criminal conspiracy with unknown public servants to alter the rules to get early overseas flying rights.
Venkataramanan had resigned from the Tata Trusts after the tax department sent notices to the charity over his inflated salary and threatened to end tax breaks to the country's largest and oldest public charity.