News Karnataka
Thursday, April 25 2024

Defamatory Statements Against BharatPe; Delhi HC Restrains Ashneer Grover

Bharath Pay
Photo Credit : IANS

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Friday issued an order restraining BharatPe‘s former MD Ashneer Grover from making defamatory and derogatory statements against the fintech company, its office bearers, or officials.

In November last year, the court imposed a fine of Rs 2 lakh on Grover.

On Friday, Justice Pratibha M. Singh directed Grover to remove his tweets, including one calling the SBI chairperson “petty”, within 48 hours.

The court also mandated the Economic Times to take down an article published recently, which was based on letters written by Grover to the RBI chairman.

BharatPe had approached the high court months after Ashneer Grover and his wife, Madhuri Jain Grover, were dismissed from the company over allegations of misappropriation of funds. In its suit, running into 2,800 pages, BharatPe has claimed damages worth Rs 88.67 crore from Grover, his wife, and his brother for alleged cheating and misappropriation of funds.

The suit sought the court’s direction to prohibit them from making defamatory statements on any platform.

BharatPe had filed a fresh application alleging that Grover had made additional statements and tweets contravening two court orders from last year and an undertaking not to make similar posts in the future. Senior advocate Akhil Sibal, representing BharatPe, cited an article by the Economic Times on March 7, which purportedly relied on Grover’s letter to the RBI Governor alleging fraud by the fintech company.

The court noted that Grover’s tweets and the article appeared to violate judicial orders and his own undertaking.

On the other hand, advocate Giriraj Subramanium, representing Grover, argued that while the Economic Times article was based on Grover’s letters to the RBI, Grover did not provide the letter to the publication.

Upon reviewing the tweets and article, the court deemed them prima facie violative and cautioned against Grover’s derogatory remarks, particularly the tweet about the SBI Chairperson, which it deemed “completely avoidable”.

In November 2023, Justice Rekha Palli expressed dismay at the persistent and blatant violation of earlier orders and assurances made by Grover.

The judge, appalled by this behaviour, had decided to close the matter, binding Grover to his undertaking but imposing a cost of Rs 2 lakh.

The court had taken on record Grover’s apology and undertaking but proceeded to levy the fine, saying that the court cannot be taken for granted.

The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Delhi Police had filed an FIR against Grover and members of his family, and BharatPe had filed an application alleging that Grover had been tweeting defamatory statements ever since.

The damages sought by BharatPe include a claim for payment made against the invoices for non-existent vendors amounting to Rs 71.7 crore, a claim for Rs 1.66 crore penalty paid to GST authorities, payments totalling Rs 7.6 crore made to vendors purportedly providing recruitment services, payments of Rs 1.85 crore made to a furnishings company, payments for personal expenditures up to Rs 59.7 lakh and payment of Rs 5 crore damages for loss of reputation to the company caused by tweets and other statements made by them.

In its suit, the fintech company claimed that a Rajasthan-based travel company had raised invoices for foreign tours twice, once for Grover and his wife and for the second time, for their children.

The family also used the company’s funds to travel abroad.

The suit further claimed that the Grovers used the company funds to pay the rent and security deposit of their posh duplex and for home appliances, too.

The duplex was first taken over by Grovers as the company’s guest house, but eventually they started living there, the suit claimed.

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