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Zee head, son still safe from arrest

Zee head, son still safe from arrest
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A Delhi court on Friday extended till 20 December the interim protection from arrest granted to Zee Group Chairman Subhash Chandra and his son in the case of alleged Rs 100 crore extortion bid from Congress MP Naveen Jindal’s firm by two editors of the news channel.

‘Interim protection for the two is extended till 20 December,’ Additional Sessions Judge Raj Rani Mitra said, adding that the court will hear arguments on their anticipatory bail plea on that day.

The order came after Chandra and his son Punit Goenka’s counsel, senior advocate Geeta Luthra and Vijay Aggarwal, sought extension of the interim protection as Luthra had to rush to Supreme Court to argue in another matter listed there.

Luthra said that the passports of her clients are already with the police so there is no chance of their fleeing from justice. She also said that after the interim protection granted on 6 December, Chandra and Goenka have joined the probe on 8 and 9 December.

‘They have not been called for further joining of investigation till today so the interim protection may be extended,’ she said.

Special Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan opposed the request for extension of interim protection saying if the court wants to adjourn the matter, they (police) have no problem in this but it should not extend their interim protection as it expires today.

The Delhi Police today filed its fresh status report in the case as directed by the court in its 6 December order.

The court, meanwhile, also heard arguments on the regular bail application of Zee News Editor Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee Business Editor Samir Ahluwalia, who were arrested on 27 November.

Earlier on 6 December, the court had granted Chandra and Goenka interim protection from arrest till 14 December and had directed them to ‘join and cooperate’ with the probe in the case of alleged extortion bid by two editors of Zee News.

The court had also directed the Delhi Police, which had decided to interrogate Chandra and his son Punit Goenka on 8 December, to file a fresh report on 14 December.

It had ordered both Chandra and Goenka to surrender their passports to the police.

The interim protection was granted by the court on the application filed by the father-son duo, seeking this relief or anticipatory bail.

The prosecution while opposing their application had contended that the two jailed editors (Chaudhary and Ahluwalia) have not acted alone and that the whole episode was planned in collusion with the seniors of the Zee group in a conspiracy hatched to extort Rs 100 crore for their channel. Both Chaudhary and Ahluwalia, presently lodged in Tihar jail, 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 court tomorrow will continue hearing the arguments on the third bail plea of the two arrested Zee editors.

During arguments that went on for about three hours, senior advocate R N Mittal, Aggarwal and Sunil Mittal, counsels for Chaudhary and Ahluwalia, told the court that their client should be released from the jail immediately.

‘What is the reason that we (editors) have been kept away from our family and society. We are not hardcore criminals,’ the counsels said.

They said the police in its reply has not given even a single reason to keep the editors behind the bars.

Aggarwal said, ‘If section 384 and 511 of IPC is used together than the offence becomes non-bailable, but it carries a sentence of only one and half years of jail term.

‘If the offence carries one and half years imprisonment then the accused should be released on bail,’ he said.

The counsels told the court that since the lodging of the FIR their clients had been cooperating in the investigation and had never escaped or evaded notices given to them for questioning.

The defence counsel urged the court to release the two editors on bail by imposing certain conditions on them.

The prosecution, however, has opposed their contention saying the two editors’ bail application has already been dismissed twice, so the court should reject this also.

Their two bail applications were earlier dismissed by the trial court on 28 November and 3 December.

The duo moved the sessions court with their fresh bail plea soon after the magisterial court had rejected the plea of Delhi Police to subject the two for polygraph test as they refused to give their consent.

However, the two editors who are in judicial custody till 22 December have given their consent for voice sample tests as sought by the police.
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