Former Prime Minister and JDS patriarch HD Deve Gowda has been directed to pay a sum of ₹2 crores to an infrastructure services firm named Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) Limited for causing ‘loss of reputation’. The order was issued by an Additional City Civil and Sessions Court on Thursday (June 17).
During an interview to a Kannada news channel in 2011, Deve Gowda had claimed that the firm was ‘looting’ more land than required for the implementation of a project. Following his comments, NICE Limited had filed a lawsuit against the JDS supremo. The company claimed to have suffered a huge loss to its reputation and demanded ₹10 crores in damages.
The Counsel for NICE Limited pointed out that the firm had no role in determining the quantity of land allocated for the said project. He argued that the allegation was baseless and not backed by any documentary evidence. The Counsel for the company also highlighted that the project was approved by the Karnataka Government. He added that directions for the implementation of the project were given by the Karnataka High Court as well as the Supreme Court of India.
A Bengaluru court has directed former PM HD Deve Gowda to pay Rs 2 crores to Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) Ltd for loss of reputation. NICE had filed an original suit against the statements made by the former PM in an interview with a news channel in 2011. pic.twitter.com/hSmpIYJl7O— ANI (@ANI) June 22, 2021
The Counsel argued that since the project received clearance both from the Judiciary and the Government, it was a testimony of ‘no irregularities/ illegality’ in the project. When the matter came up before Judge Mallanagouda of the Additional City Civil and Sessions Court, he noted that the former PM failed to prove his claims made during the interview. The Court directed Deve Gowda to pay a fine of ₹2 crores and permanently refrain from making any statements against NICE Limited in media or other mass communication channels.
The Court ruled, “Therefore, there is nothing on record to show that the allegations made by the defendant (Deve Gowda) against the plaintiff Company (NICE) in the questioned interview are supported with any cogent documentary proof…Hence, if defamatory statements like the present one are allowed to be made in the future, definitely implementation of such a massive project like the present one which is undertaken in the larger public interest of the State of Karnataka is going to be delayed.”
In the 1996 general elections, HD Deve Gowda became the Prime Minister with the external support of the Congress party. The popular mandate produced a hung assembly, despite BJP being the single largest party. Congress played the role of the kingmaker and made him the PM.
Years later in 2018, Congress helped his son Kumarswamy to snatch power from BS Yeddyurappa and form the government. But, just like the 1996 JDS-Congress coalition, the government collapsed and the BJP came to the power yet again. Neither Deve Gowda nor Kumaraswamy was ever meant to hold the posts they assumed, even they themselves never thought about assuming such positions.