Editors bail plea rejected again

The bail pleas of two Zee News channel editors, arrested for allegedly trying to extort Rs 100 crore from a Congress MP Naveen Jindal’s group firm for not telecasting reports linking it to coal block allocation scam, were dismissed by a Delhi court on Monday.

Metropolitan Magistrate Rajinder Singh dismissed the bail pleas saying Zee News head Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee Business Editor Samir Ahluwalia have not given any new ground for their release on bail in the fresh application after dismissal of their first ones on 28 November.

‘Investigation is at a preliminary stage and there is no change of facts and circumstances since November 28 and the bail application had been dismissed by the duty magistrate earlier on 28 November....and no fresh ground have come up to release them on bail. Hence, in my considered opinion, the bail (plea) is dismissed,’ the court said.

‘The dismissal of bail application does preclude the accused from moving successive bail applications,’ it added.

During the hearing on the bail applications, Special Public Prosecutor Rajiv Mohan argued that the accused have no right to move a fresh bail plea as their similar applications had been dismissed by a magistrate on 28 November when they were first remanded in police custody for two days.

Mohan argued the two editors should not be given bail as they were involved in criminally extorting money from Jindal Steel and Power Limited and have also abused the freedom of speech and expression granted to the press under Article 19 of the Constitution.

He said the accused have already filed their bail plea under section 437 of CrPC at an earlier stage and therefore, the second bail plea is not maintainable and should be dismissed. He said they have been booked for non-bailable offences and hence cannot be released on bail.

She said, ‘The CAG report which was aired by Zee news was a constitutional body report tabled in the Parliament. As a channel editor of Zee group, it was my client’s responsibility to put forth the truth.’

John said that the editors had decided to run news showing Jindal’s firm’s alleged involvement in the allocation of coal blocks only as per the findings of the CAG report.

‘As a journalist, it was my editor’s right to show the corruption, was it a police right to register an FIR against them?,’ she asked.

‘I (Zee editors) did pick and choose, does it become a criminal offence?,’ she said and added, ‘Has the CAG raised objection that we have shown a false report? It is not like that, we did our job.’

She argued that it was Jindal’s representative who had met the Zee editors for the deal and they themselves had never went up to them. She told the court that this can be inferred from the e-mail received by Sudhir Chaudhary, in which JSPL officials had asked for the advertisement agreement as soon as possible.

She said she failed to understand as to who had been induced and who had been put under fear in the whole episode, adding there is no prima facie evidence to book them under extortion as there was no exchange of money. Seeking bail for the two editors, the counsel said they have been booked for offences, which carry a maximum jail term of one and a half year.  

Jindal has alleged that Zee News had tried to extort Rs 100 crore in exchange for not airing stories linking his group firms to the coal block allocation scam.


Zee Group Chairman Subhash Chandra informed the police on Monday that he is prepared to appear before them in connection with the alleged extortion bid by two senior editors of his channel within four days of notice.

Delhi Police had served two notices to Chandra last month asking him to join investigations after the arrest of Zee editors Sudhir Chaudhury and Samir Ahluwalia for their alleged extortion bid of Rs 100 crore from Congress MP Naveen Jindal’s company for not airing news damaging to it.

In a letter to Delhi Police, through his lawyer R K Handoo, the Zee Group chairman claimed that ‘vested interests’ have created a public ‘mis-impression’ that he is deliberately not joining investigations.

Terming the campaign as ‘vicious’, ‘malafide’ and ‘unwarranted’, the letter said Chandra has informed police on 27 November that he went ahead with his ‘pre-scheduled’ meetings and engagements in India and abroad.

The letter also noted that as chairman of Essel Group, he has his meetings planned nearly two months in advance and any abrupt change not only affects the schedule of other businesses but also brings disrepute to him.

‘That is why to honour his commitments in India and abroad, my client had well in advance and before your arrest action, requested you to adjourn the matter till his return from overseas.

‘... because of the distorted campaign unleashed by vested interests, he is prepared to reschedule and cut short his overseas engagements and shall come to India only to join the investigations at your convenience forthwith,’ the lawyer said in the letter.

The lawyer said the date and time be indicated to him so that Chandra can be accordingly intimated and ‘he shall be present before you within 96 hours of service of notice’.

Investigators have told a local court earlier that they were treating him as an accused as he knew about the dealings between his employees and Congress MP Naveen Jindal’s company.

Zee Group has denied the allegations and demanded the immediate release of its two senior journalists, alleging that the police action was ‘illegal’ and ‘designed for something else’.
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