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Journos bail plea rejected

Journos bail plea rejected
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A Delhi court dismissed on Wednesday the bail plea of two senior journalists of Zee News channel and remanded them to two-day police custody on a complaint by Congress MP Naveen Jindal’s group that they tried to extort Rs100 crore for not broadcasting news reports on coal scam linking his firm.

Police told the court that Subhash Chandra, Chairman of Zee News, and Punit Goenka, MD of the channel, are also accused in the case.

It said Chandra was complicit in the demand of money.

Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha remanded Sudhir Chaudhary, the head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, head of Zee Business, to police custody till 30 November.

The police had sought three days custody of both the accused with Additional Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan arguing that their sustained interrogation was necessary to unearth the conspiracy in the case.

The police also said the two editors are accused of demanding Rs 100 crore from Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) in the form of advertisments to the channel.

JSPL is among the companies named in the CAG report as one of the beneficiaries of the controversial coal block allocations.

Police told the court that Subhash Chandra, Chairman of Zee News, and Punit Goenka, MD of the channel, are also accused in the case.

It said Chandra was complicit in the demand of money.

Both the journalists have been booked under section 384 (extortion), 420 (cheating), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 511 (punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) of the IPC.

The prosecutor said the probe agency has evidence in the form of video and audio recordings of the two accused while demanding the money.

He said three officials of Jindal Group – Ravi Mutreja, head of corporate communication of Jindal Group, Sushil Kumar, director in Jindal Group, and Vivek Mittal, senior DGM, were approached by the two editors of the Zee News offering not to broadcast the news reports regarding the alleged involvement of the JSPL in the allocation of coal block scam.

He said the channel had demanded the money in the form of advertisements for a period of five years.

‘We need their sustained custodial interrogation to unearth the conspiracy and to know the source who had cooked up this idea of alleged extortion of money from the Jindal Group as it is not a single person decision.

‘This money was for the whole (Zee) Group so many others are involved behind the conspiracy,’ he said while accusing Chandra of being complicit in the whole episode.

He said the stories aired on their channel regarding the alleged involvement of Jindal Group in coal blocks allocation scam were ‘concocted’ and the probe in the case was on.

Mohan submitted that while striking the deal, the two accused had contacted Chandra which reflects his alleged involvement in the case.

She further said that the FIR is a ‘counter blast’ to put media on back foot so that no programme could be aired against Jindal Group for their alleged involvement in allocation of coal blocks.

John also claimed that the police is acting as a tool for the state by arresting the two mediapersons.

‘Whatever happened between the two groups was with the knowledge of both the sides,’ she said.

‘Our side was trying to see how far they would go and they wanted to cover their backs,’ she said.

She also asked the court as to how section 383 of the IPC was applicable on the accused as the provision would come into force when the money is exchanged between the parties whereas in this case, no money has changed hands.

She argued that since both the accused have cooperated with the investigation, their custodial interrogation was not required.

During the hearing, both the accused moved bail pleas arguing that since no money was exchanged between the parties, it was at best a case of putting a person in fear of injury in order to extort money, making it a bailable offence.

‘When the FIR was lodged, the charge of cheating was not invoked and it was added later on at the behest of powerful people,’ she said.

Jindal’s company with the crime branch of Delhi Police.

Jindal had last month released a CD purportedly showing footage of the Zee journalists trying to strike a deal with his company officials, telling them the channel will not air negative stories of Jindal Group if the money is paid to them.

Chaudhary had rubbished the allegations as ‘fabrication’ and described them as ‘pressure tactics’ to prevent the channel from doing such stories.

‘We have done a series of stories on coal scam based on official papers. This is a retaliation to our relentless campaign against corruption,’ he had said.

Jindal Power and Steel Ltd (JPSL) chairman Naveen Jindal had earlier claimed that the Zee executives had demanded Rs 20 crore for four years and these meetings were secretly filmed.

The journalists later raised the demand to Rs 100 crore for not broadcasting stories against the company in relation to allocation of coal blocks, he claimed.

In a retaliatory move, Zee News had last month sent a Rs 150 crore defamation notice to the Congress MP, who too had filed a Rs 200 crore case against the media conglomerate claiming the TV channel had tried to extort money from his company.


‘POLICE PRESSURISED BY NAVEEN JINDAL’


A day after the arrest of Sudhir Chaudhary (head of Zew News) and Samir Ahluwalia (head of Zee Business) for allegedly extorting Jindal company of Rs 100 crore. Now, Subhash Chandra (promoter of Zee Network) was also asked to join the investigation.

On Wednesday, Zee Network has conducted a press conference where Alok Agarwal, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zee News told the media persons that the arrest made by Delhi police was illegal. He added, ‘we demand immediate release of the duo, who have been arrested under pressure of Naveen Jindal.’

He called the illegal arrest as a crude attack on the freedom of the press. Agarwal denied all the allegations of extortion made against their two senior journalists. ‘The arrests have been made to sensationalise the issue and to lend a cover to the coal scam and in particular to favour Naveen Jindal, Congress MP, and his company JSPL,’ he added.

According to a senior police official, ‘Chandra has not joined the investigation so far. However he was given a notice but he did not respond to Delhi Police’s notice on joining the probe into allegations of extortion.’

As per the first information report (FIR) lodged by Congress MP, Naveen Jindal alleged that he along with his associates were been extorted for not doing any news reports on coal s cam linking his firm. On which the crime branch have arrested the duo.

However, Agarwal called the FIR a clever attempt to divert attention from JSPL’s own role in the coal scam, which was exposed by the CAG and is being investigated by the CBI.

Addressing the media persons, Agarwal added that the channel vehemently denies all allegations levelled against it. The channel strongly condemns the arbitrary and illegal action of the Delhi Police in arresting its two editors and for initiating a malicious, illegal and motivated prosecution. We wish to reiterate that no offence has been committed by members of the Zee News staff.
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