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Court’s gift for Raymond patriarch on his 80th birthday Singhania’s tell-all, that son didn’t want published, cleared

October 05, 2018 06:31 AM


Court’s gift for Raymond patriarch on his 80th birthday
Singhania’s tell-all, that son didn’t want published, cleared
In a suit filed on September 25, Gautam Singhania had sought to stop his father from working on the book alleging that its contents were “defamatory to him”
| Sharmeen.Hakim and Sunil Baghel

The City Civil Court on Thursday rejected an application by Raymond Group chairman Gautam Singhania seeking an injunction against a book his estranged father Dr Vijaypat Singhania is writing.

The go-ahead for the book – tentatively titled ‘The Incomplete Man’ an obvious reference to the company’s tagline ‘The Complete Man’ – came on Vijaypat’s 80th birthday.

In a suit filed on September 25, Gautam had sought to stop his father and the publishers, Penguin Random House India, from working on the book alleging that its contents were “defamatory to him as well as his family”.

The father and son have been engaged in a bitter legal battle over a duplex apartment in the 36-storey redeveloped JK House at Nepean Sea Road. In a petition filed in the Bombay High Court, Vijaypat had alleged that Gautam is denying what was promised to him when the building went into redevelopment, forcing the patriarch to live in a rented accommodation.

In an interview to this newspaper, Vijaypat had bemoaned being blinded by the love for his son when he passed on everything that he had to Gautam – close to Rs 1000 crore worth of shares in the holding company in February 2015.

Gautam maintains that he harbours no bitterness for his father and that the JK House apartment can’t be handed over to Vijaypat because the company’s shareholders have not approved the transfer. “It appears certain vested interest, who may be seeking a substantial financial gain from him, are preventing him from doing what is right. But he is my father and it pains me to see what he is going through,” Gautam had said in August last year. The issue is now being adjudicated by a panel of arbitrators.

Gautam’s application in the City Civil Court thrown out on Thursday had alleged that Vijaypat has shared the contents of his book with “some employees, ex-employees as well as associates and colleagues of Gautam” and that some of it was defamatory.

However, the publishers and Vijaypat’s lawyers –Upendra Mahadik, Abhijit Deshmukh and Nitin Thakkar -- argued that Gautam’s side had not been able to show what content exactly was defamatory. They also said that the book was “still in process,” and therefore, Gautam’s case was premature. The publishers informed the court that the book was not a biography, but an autobiography – meaning that the octogenarian himself was writing it.

Gautam’s suit said that he was dissatisfied with the reply received to his legal notices from the publisher’s side and that his demand to go through the manuscript of the book was not met with. Notices and replies were exchanged between the parties on August 14, August 30 and September 4. Gautam’s lawyer – Bharat Chaudhari – also cited the nine-judge bench Supreme Court judgement on right to privacy from earlier this year before the court.

The publishers on their part cited a Delhi High Court judgement from 2001 in a case between late author Khushwant Singh and Maneka Gandhi. In that case the court had denied “prepublication” injunction, upholding right to publish and freedom of press and observed had that the right cannot be violated by an individual or the State, except for using the Constitution’s Article 19 (2) to impose “reasonable restrictions.”

The court, accepting these arguments, observed that the family members were involved in a “public fight” and no action for defamation had been taken so far on that. “This court can take judicial notice of that fact that since the last three years, the plaintiff (Gautam) and the defendant no. 4 (Vijaypat) have made allegations each other in public domain such as newspapers and social media. Thus, the controversy in question drew wide publicity. No grievance was made by the plaintiff at that stage of time. Hence the plaintiff cannot be heard to say that there will be a defamatory statement in the proposed book when he has not taken any action in the last three years against def. no. 4,” the court observed, while rejecting Gautam’s application

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