Court admits defamation case against Cyrus Mistry, others

A Mumbai court on Tuesday admitted a Rs500-crore criminal defamation complaint against former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry, his brother Shapoor Mistry, and directors of their companies, Cyrus Investments and Sterling Investments.

The complaint was filed by the managing trustee of Tata Trusts, Ramachandran Venkataramanan, often known as Venkat. He has accused Mistry and others of making false statements against him.

Metropolitan Magistrate Krishna G Paldewar has initiated process against the accused in a complaint lodged last month. Accordingly, Cyrus Mistry, the ousted former chairman of Tata Sons, and other directors of Cyrus Investments Pvt Ltd and Sterling Investments Pvt Ltd will be tried for criminal defamation.

They will have to appear before the court and execute bail bonds. Later, the charges would be framed against the accused under sections dealing with criminal defamation and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code.

The court has posted the matter for further hearing on August 24 and directed the accused to appear before it for bail.

The hearing of another case between Mistry and Tata Sons over the acrimonious fallout of Cyrus' sacking is on at the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal.

At the hearings, the court upheld the arguments of Venkataramanan's counsel, Parvez Memon that under Article 21 of the Constitution, protecting a citizen's right to life is inclusive of the right to live with dignity and that all are equal in the eyes of the law under it.

In his complaint, Venkat has reportedly said Mistry's 25 October 2016, e-mail to Tata Sons directors and trustees of Tata Trusts contained ''defamatory statements''. Mistry had alleged ''certain fraudulent transactions of Rs22 crore'' involving non-existent parties in India and Singapore at AirAsia India; he had also said that Venkat considered these transactions as ''non-material'' and ''didn't encourage any further study'' of it.

The letter had found its way to the media, causing enormous damage to his as well as his family's reputation, claimed Venkat's complaint.

He has also alleged Mistry made false statements against him at the National Company Law Tribunal in Mumbai.

Mistry had reportedly said Venkat had asked Tata Capital to offer loans to C Sivasankaran, a close friend of Ratan Tata. The loans had turned bad.

"All such allegations were hurled irresponsibly against Venkataramanan, , Tata Sons and others only after his unceremonious ouster from Tata Sons. Why was he otherwise silent for his entire tenure, not to speak about several of his own wrongdoings against which Tata Sons may have its own cause of action?" he told the court.

Cyrus and Shapoor Mistry, through their investment firms, own about 18 per cent of Tata Sons, the holding firm of the $104-billion turnover Tata Group. They can now move the high court to squash the complaint.