'Like some places, Vapi, an industrial hub in Gujarat, bordering Maharashtra, is recognisable by its smells and its polluted colourful nallahs full of untreated effluents. Many years ago, it used to be identified by an unmistakable stench and even now as you cross the river Daman Ganga, the air tells you that there is more than water in that river. Most people passed by and held their noses but one photo-journalist did more than that. Shailendra Yashwant reported on the pollution in Vapi in an article, “Toxic Wastes Choke Vapi’s Lifeline”, for Sanctuary Features which was published in Newstime on 11 July, 1995.
For that public service, Yashwant and the chief editor of Newstime, Ramoji Rao, its owners and publishers, and Bittu Sahgal, editor of Sanctuary Features who commissioned the article, faced trial for defamation charges which concluded only last month, a good 22 years after the case was filed by United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) in 1996. The company claimed that the “defamatory” article was published with the “common intention” of affecting its business and causing it damage as well as tarnishing the reputation of its directors. Besides, it contended that the article contained “several false statements, some of which are defamatory per se and others [are] containing defamatory innuendos.”
The judge also pointed out in his order that the case of the complainant relating to financial loss to the company is contrary to the evidence.
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