The Essar Group, which has filed a Rs. 500-crore defamation suit against Greenpeace, a leading international ecological activist group, is expected to cite a recent Intelligence Bureau report, which called several NGOs, including Greenpeace, “a threat to national economic security”.
On January 22 this year, a group of Greenpeace activists masquerading as cleaning staff entered the Essar Group’s head office in Mumbai’s Mahalaxmi Race Course area and unfurled a 72-feet long banner saying: “We kill forests: Essar”.
They were protesting against the allocation of a coal mine in Mahan in Madhya Pradesh, which, activists have claimed, will result in the destruction of one of Asia’s oldest Sal forests and the displacement of thousands of tribals from their ancestral lands.
Activists fear that the Essar suit and the IB report may lead to a rash of similar cases against Greenpeace and other NGOs.
Two days later, on January 24, the Bombay HC passed an interim order restraining Greenpeace and its representatives from entering the Essar head office and from holding any demonstrations within 100 metres from it.
“On the request of Essar, the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay was pleased to grant time of seven days for placing on record some additional information by affidavit. The case has now been kept for further hearing on June 24th,” the Essar Group said in a statement.
“Essar is already trying to quash any kind of people’s movement through the suit, but is now trying to use the IB report, too. The report has no relevance to the case in question… The IB report is serving corporate interests in trying to cast critical voices as illegitimate, and prevent discussion of the real issues,” said Arundhati Muthu, a campaigner with Greenpeace India.