In a first, an Indian-American student, Randeep Hothi, has won round one of the legal battle against centibillionaire Elon Musk. The Tesla CEO failed to get a stay on the defamation lawsuit filed by Hothi, who is an ardent critic of Tesla. According to Bloomberg, the court dismissed Musk’s pleas which stated that allegations against him were baseless and an attempt to silence him. In the verdict, California state judge Julia Spain of Alameda County Superior Court said that Hothi’s lawsuit had merit and there are chances of his winning.

Who Is Randeep Hothi?

Randeep Hothi, an ex-student of the University of California in Berkeley, is currently a doctoral candidate in the Asian languages at the University of Michigan. A vocal critic of Tesla, the bio of Hothi’s Twitter handle ‘skabooshka’ reads “Investigating/Reporting on corporate fraud”.

“Currently focusing on Tesla,” he further states. Hothi is said to be a part of a global anonymous group of Tesla critics, ‘$TSLAQ’, also consisting of Tesla employees. Hothi’s parents live in Fremont, where Tesla has its auto plant. While other $TSLAQ members post from anonymous handles, Hothi and his brother’s identity were disclosed by another anonymous Twitter account that has remained active since then.

Legal Battle

Elon Musk and Hothi’s personal spat began in 2019 when he tried to visit Tesla’s Fremont sales centre in California but was stopped by the security guard. In April 2019, Hothi shared a picture of a Tesla car on social media claiming that he was being followed by the company. This left Musk furious who then called Hothi a “liar”.

Defamation Lawsuit

Hothi filed a defamation case against Musk in August, alleging that Musk played a pivotal role in triggering the online hate campaign against him. After Hothi and his brother’s identity was revealed in 2018, Musk tweeted in which he tagged Volkswagen and asked about Hothi’s connections to the company. Following the tweet, Hothi faced racial abuse online.