New Delhi: A Delhi court Friday sent two senior Zee News journalists, arrested on an extortion complaint filed by Congress MP Naveen Jindal, who owns Jindal Power and Steel Ltd. (JPSL), to 14 days’ judicial custody.
Metropolitan Magistrate Gaurav Rao sent the duo to judicial custody till Dec 14.
The two journalists also moved a bail application to which the court issued notice to police and sought their response by Saturday.
Sudhir Chaudhary, head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, head of Zee Business, were arrested here Nov 27 on charges of attempting to extort Rs.100 crore from Jindal Power and Steel Ltd. in exchange for not filing news reports linking the firm to the irregular coal blocks allocation.
Police produced Chaudhary and Ahluwalia in the court after their police custody expired Friday.
Advocate Rebecca John, appearing for the journalists, moved their bail plea which was opposed by police. Police also said that three employees of Zee News who had been summoned recorded their statement.
The three employees are Amit Tripathi, sales head, Zee TV, A. Mohan; legal advisor, Zee TV, and Jawahar Goel, managing director of Zee’s parent company Essel Group.
Earlier, the court had sent both journalists to two days police remand and dismissed their bail plea, after which they moved fresh bail application Friday.
Police had said that while reporting on the matter, Zee News misreported facts and “there was an element of deception involved”.
However, John had maintained that the meeting between JPSL officials and the two journalists was held only because the company’s officials had called them and her clients had not made any deal with JPSL.
The Jindal Group filed an extortion complaint against them.
Police booked the journalists under Sections 384 (extortion), 120(b) (criminal conspiracy) and 511 (punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Before arresting Chaudhary and Ahluwalia, police also charged them under Section 420 (cheating).
Both journalists are accused of demanding Rs.100 crore from Jindal Group in the form of advertisments to the channel in exchange for not filing news reports linking his firm to the coal blocks allocation.
Last month Jindal released a CD which purportedly showed footage in which the Zee journalists were trying to strike a deal with his company officials, telling them that their TV news channel would not air negative stories on Jindal Group if the money was paid to them.
Jindal, who is chairman of JPSL, had earlier claimed that the Zee executives had demanded Rs.20 crore for four years and they secretly filmed the meetings. They later raised the demand to Rs.100 crore for not broadcasting stories against the company in relation to the allocation of coal blocks, Jindal alleged.
JPSL is among the companies named in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report as one of the beneficiaries of the controversial coal blocks allocation.
Zee News last month sent a Rs.150 crore defamation notice to the Congress MP, who had filed a Rs.200 crore suit against the media conglomerate, claiming that the TV channel had tried to extort money from his company.
However, Zee News chief executive officer Alok Agarwal at a press conference had defended its journalists saying, “Our executives’ arrest is illegal. We strongly condemn arrests of our two executives.”
Agarwal also alleged that police were being forced to pursue the matter against them and make illegal arrests.