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Rediff.com  » Business » Sahara sues journo for Rs 200 cr, gets stay on book

Sahara sues journo for Rs 200 cr, gets stay on book

January 10, 2014 16:05 IST

In the midst of its bloody battles with the Supreme Court and Sebi, Sahara group gets the Calcutta high court to issue a stay order on the publication of the book, Sahara: The Untold Story, by Tamal Bandyopadhyay.

Pushed to the wall by India’s capital market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, Subrata Roy’s Sahara India Parivar has now turned its attention to any potential negative portrayal, it seems.

The group filed a Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) defamation suit against veteran journalist Tamal Bandyopadhyay for his forthcoming book Sahara: The Untold Story and on December 10 last year obtained a stay order in the Calcutta high court against the book's publication.

The publisher of the book, Jaico, and printer, Repro India Ltd, were made parties to the case.

Bandyopadhyay is contesting Sahara’s claim and there have been a few hearings since then but the stay continues.

The book has not been published as yet even though it had a pre-launch at a non-fiction festival in November at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Business Today magazine has published extracts from the book.

Bandyopadhyay refused to comment for this report, while messages and mails to Sahara group’s corporate communication team went unanswered.

According to sources familiar with the development, the Sahara move was unexpected since the group was aware that Bandyopadhyay was writing the book about the group.

He had, in fact, met Subrata Roy and interviewed him last year. Part of the interview and a story based on Bandyopadhyay’s meeting with Roy in Lucknow was published in the Mint newspaper in March 2013.

Bandyopadhyay is the newspaper's deputy managing editor.

“It is difficult to fathom what provoked the Sahara group to take legal course. My understanding is that the book is based on research and interviews of regulators, bankers, corporate captains and reports published in the media,” said a person close to the development, adding, "I am told it is an interesting book full of anecdotes, although I have not seen the book."

“This is nothing but an attack on a journalist’s fundamental right -- freedom of expression," the individual, who would not agree to be named for this report, said. "Tamal is known for his integrity and ethics.”

Bandyopadhyay’s first book, A Bank for the Buck -- The Story of HDFC Bank in the context of the New Bank Movement, was launched by Finance Minister P Chidambaram in November 2012. The book has been a non-fiction bestseller.

While releasing the book in Mumbai, Chidambaram had said, 'In a period of great financial illiteracy, it’s refreshing to have a book written by somebody very literate about matters relating to finance. There is so much financial illiteracy around us that it is refreshing that we have Tamal Bandyopadhyay’s book and I hope that many aspiring financial journalists and perhaps even many established financial journalists will follow his example and write with great concern for the truth and greater concern for what really matters in the financial world.'

The Supreme Court on Thursday asked two Sahara group companies about the source of Rs 22,000 crore (Rs 220 billion) that it claimed to have refunded to its 3.3 million investors.

The apex court also warned Sahara of a full-fledged probe, including one by the Central Bureau of Investigation, if it did not disclose the source of money.

Also, the court order barring Subrata Roy from traveling overseas will continue.

Bandyopadhyay’s book too raises questions about Sahara’s source of funds, but has not provided any definite answer, sources said.

Image: Subrata Roy. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters 

A Correspondent in Mumbai