The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) registered “shock” and condemned the news that a court in Kutch had issued an arrest warrant against senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta on Tuesday. The warrant came about due to the alleged defamation of the Adani Group in an article co-authored by the journalist in in 2017.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, DUJ said that while the Adani Group had “ironically” withdrawn the charges against the publishers of the piece and its co-authors, it had chosen to retain them in Guha Thakurta’s case.
“The Delhi Union of Journalists severely condemns the move to arrest a leading journalist. We have long demanded decriminalisation of the defamation law that is a serious threat to media freedoms. We urge the higher judiciary to strike down the criminal defamation law at the earliest,” their statement said.
The article in question was published by the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) in 2017. It had alleged that the Centre had tweaked rules of the Special Economic Zone which “enabled a company in the Adani Group to reap a bonanza of around Rs 500 crore.”
The Adani Group subsequently sent a notice to the publisher and threatened legal action. Following the threat, the Sameeksha Trust, which publishes the EPW withdrew the piece and Guha Thakurta had resigned in protest.
The article was later republished by The Wire in June 2017, following which the Adani Group “then filed a SLAPP suit on The Wire and the co-authors of the article.” In May 2019, however, a court in Gujarat ordered that a sentence and a word from the piece be removed.
The news organisation had complied and the case was later withdrawn. However, the DUJ has said that it was “strange that another court should have ordered the arrest of Guha Thakurta”.
On Tuesday, a court in Gujarat's Mundra in Kutch district issued an arrest warrant against Guha Thakurta in the defamation suit filed by the Adani Group.
“...accused stands charged with complaint under section 500 of IPC. You are hereby directed to arrest the said accused and to produce him before me,” Judicial Magistrate Pradeep Soni said in a direction to the Nizamuddin police station in New Delhi.
“We haven't received any intimation (from the court). This information (on arrest warrant) has come to us from media,” Guha Thakurta’s lawyer Anand had Yagnik said. He had mentioned that the Adani Group had withdrawn complaints against everybody, including the editor but not against the author.
“The magazine (which published the article) is not responsible (for criminal defamation), the case against co-author has been withdrawn but you don't withdraw the complaint against the author,” he had said. “We have moved a discharge application,” he added.