New Delhi: Amid Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s repeated attacks on the government and Reliance Group companies over the Rafale aircraft deal, the Anil Ambani-led conglomerate has filed a Rs 5,000-crore defamation suit against Congress-owned National Herald, claiming that an article published in the newspaper regarding the Rafale fighter jet deal was “libellous and derogatory”.

The company also filed a second, similar suit against Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil seeking Rs 5,000 crore in damages for defamation.

The two civil defamation suits were filed by Reliance Defence, Reliance Infrastructure and Reliance Aerostructure, which belong to Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group, against the Associated Journals Limited, the publisher of the National Herald, its editor-in-charge Zafar Agha, and the author of the article, Vishwadeepak.

The suits were filed yesterday in the court of city civil and sessions judge P J Tamakuwala, who issued notices to the respondents and sought replies by September 7, said advocate P S Champaneri who is representing both the National Herald and Gohil.

The suit against the newspaper alleged that the article titled ‘Anil Ambani floated Reliance Defence 10 days before Modi announced Rafale deal’ was libellous and defamatory, and it “misleads the general public to believe that undue business favours are being extended to them by the government of the day”.

The article conveys a “negative image” and “adversely affects the public perception” of Reliance Group and its chairman Ambani, it said.

It has caused “considerable damage” to reputation and goodwill of plaintiff firms, it said, seeking damages of Rs 5,000 crore.

The plaintiffs “vehemently” deny the content of the article, the petition said.

Earlier, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group had sent legal notices to several Congress leaders, asking them to “cease and desist” from levelling allegations against the company in connection with Rafale deal.

The development came on a day when Congress President Rahul Gandhi, while addressing the Indian Overseas Congress in London, said that the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited had been manufacturing aircraft for the last 50 years, but the contract was given to “someone who floated his company just 19 days before the deal”.

“Nobody will get anything. Only Ambani will get everything. This man has accrued a debt of Rs 45,000 crore,” the Congress president alleged.

Gandhi has been attacking the BJP government for allegedly inking the deal at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated to benefit “one businessman”.

Facing allegations of getting undue benefits from the multi-billion dollar Rafale deal, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group has sent legal notices to several Congress leaders asking them to “cease and desist” from levelling such charges.

Reliance Group has denied the allegations relating to the deal under which France’s Dassault is supplying the fighter jets and has entered into a joint venture with an Anil Ambani-led group firm to meet its offset requirement of the contract.

Ambani recently wrote to Gandhi on the deal saying his party has been “misinformed, misdirected and misled” by “malicious vested interests and corporate rivals” on the issue.

(With PTI inputs)