“Congratulations, we won!” that was an excited but restrained Advocate Saikrishna Rajgopal, calling to inform me that the Delhi High Court had dismissed the TATA's plea for an interim injunction against Greenpeace’s TATA vs Turtle game. The ruling is a huge blow in favour of the fundamental right to free speech, and perhaps the first time that India’s largest corporation has had its bullying ways thwarted.
In June 2010, TATA Sons had filed a case of defamation and trademark infringement against Greenpeace, asking for Rs. 10 crore in damages ($2 million) and for the game to removed from the Greenpeace site. In a 35 page detailed judgment dated January 28, 2011, Justice Ravindra Bhatt of the Delhi High Court rejected the TATA plea, upholding the right to free speech and legitimate criticism.
This case has set a legal precedent in India, as it is the first time that a giant corporation has sought to use trademark infringement laws to muzzle criticism of its environmental performance.
Meanwhile, TATA’s Dhamra port – the centre of the controversy inches towards completion, even as new evidence has emerged that Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh decided to overlook the port’s violation of the Forest Conservation Act.
This Tata vs Turtles lawsuit is of course nothing but a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) using the threat of huge monetary damages to cow Greenpeace into silence. Well, with the support of over 600,000 Indians behind us, Greenpeace doesn’t scare easy. Corporate India and the government needs to wake up – the times they are a changing! People will no longer stand to have their oceans and forests destroyed, their biodiversity decimated and their children left a bleak and barren planet.
Ashish Fernandes is an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace India.