Tata Sons former chairman Ratan Tata told the Bombay High Court Thursday that the defamation case filed against him and other directors of the group by industrialist Nusli Wadia was because of the fallout of a corporate dispute.
Ratan Tata and the other directors earlier approached the high court, seeking to quash and stay the proceedings initiated against them by a magistrate court in the 2016 criminal defamation case filed by Nusli Wadia.
In December 2018, a magistrate court in the city issued notices to Ratan Tata and other directors of Tata Sons in the criminal defamation case filed by Wadia in 2016, after he was voted out of the boards of some Tata Group companies.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Ratan Tata, on Thursday told a division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Bharati Dangre that 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 (former group chairman of Tata Sons)," Singhvi told the court.
He further argued that what the complainant, Wadia, has termed as defamatory is wrong and not "defamatory per se".
"The November 2016 letters and minutes of meeting that was 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.
After hearing brief arguments, the bench posted the petition for further hearing on June 10.
Wadia in his complaint before the magistrate claimed that Ratan 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 boards 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 magistrate's court as he was not satisfied with the explanation the respondents (Ratan Tata and others) had given him following his letters to them.
He, therefore, initiated defamation proceedings against Ratan Tata and others under Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code.