Zee editors in two-day police remand
A Delhi court on Wednesday dismissed bail plea of Zee news editor Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee Business editor Samir Ahluwalia, and sent them to two days' police remand.
They have been arrested amid allegations that the duo tried to extort Rs 100 crore from industrialist and Congress MP Naveen Jindal’s company to block airing a negative story over scam-tainted coal block allocation.
Metropolitan magistrate Gaumti Manocha sent the duo to custody of Delhi Police’s Crime Branch till November 30. Police had sought three days' custody claiming that Zee News misreported facts while reporting on Jindal’s company Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL). “There was an element of deception involved,” additional public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan told Saket court.
Mohan also argued that Sudhir and Samir’s sustained interrogation was necessary to unearth the conspiracy in the case. Police also named Zee News chairman Subhash Chandra and Zee News managing director and chief executive officer Punit Goenka as accused, and asked Chandra to join investigation.
Jindal alleges that Sudhir and Samir told his company’s representatives that if they did not spend Rs 100 crore on advertising, they would air stories on his involvement in the coal scam and as to how his company was allocated coal fields. Jindal had earlier showed tapes purportedly recorded in a sting operation alleging that the channel tried to blackmail his company. He also alleges that Zee had been showing baseless, false and fabricated news to malign his name and that of the company.
Police arrested Sudhir and Samir on Tuesday evening after forensic experts submitted a report stating that footage submitted by Jindal as evidence is not doctored. The duo has been booked under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 384 (extortion), 420 (cheating) and 511 (attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code.
According to S B S Tyagi, deputy commissioner of police (crime and railways), prima facie evidence of criminal conspiracy and extortion has been found against Sudhir and Samir leading to their arrests.
Sources further said that Crime Branch’s Inter-State Cell have conclusive evidence against the duo. Sudhir and Samir were called for questioning on Tuesday during which they could not give satisfactory answers. They were arrested after four hours of questioning.
On his part, Jindal on Wednesday refused to comment on the developments saying, “the matter is subjudice. Delhi Police is investigating the matter. I am not commenting on this.”
Meanwhile, Zee has termed the arrest of its two senior journalists “illegal.” Zee News Limited on Wednesday demanded their immediate release and accused the Congress-led UPA government of “intimidating” the media.
Zee News Chief Executive Officer Alok Agarwal rubbished the charge that Zee news editor Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee Business head Samir Ahluwalia had tried to extort Rs 100 crore from industrialist and Congress MP Navin Jindal’s company. He also named top leaders who tried to influence the channel on behalf of Jindal.
At a press conference here, Agrawal said the UPA is “intimidating” the media for its own “mistakes” and the police action was a “nefarious game plan, designed for something else”.