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Jindal extortion case: Cops get custody of Zee editors, Subhash Chandra gets notice

A Delhi court on Wednesday dismissed 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 for trying to extort Rs.100 crore for not broadcasting news reports on the coal scam linking his firm.

Sudhir Chaudhary, head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, Editor of Zee Business, who were arrested for allegedly trying to extort money from Jindal's group, were produced before Metropolitan Magistrate Gomati Manocha, who accepted police's plea for their custodial interrogation.

The Prosecution had said their custodial interrogation was necessary to unearth the conspiracy and the alleged complicity of channel's chairman Subhash Chandra and its MD Punit Goenka, who are also named as accused in the case. The duo will now be produced before the court on November 30. 

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.

Naveen Jindal
Congress MP and Jindal Steel chairman Naveen Jindal (File pic)

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.

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.

Delhi Police said that after the arrest of the two journalists, it has sent a notice to Subhash Chandra asking him to join investigations in connection with this case. Additional public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan opposed the bail plea of the two editors and said their custody was needed to ascertain the alleged complicity of Chandra as they had demanded 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.

The police also said it needed to find out the source from which the CAG report, which is the subject matter of dispute between the news channel and the Jindal Group, was obtained.

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

However, advocate Rebecca John, opposed the prosecution's theory and contended that as per the FIR registered by the crime branch on October 2, three persons of Jindal Group had approached Zee News.

"The meeting was at the behest of the complainant and not by us. The alleged tampering of the CAG report is not mentioned in the FIR and it is also not possible for others to fabricate it as it is a government report," John, appearing for the news channel, argued.

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.

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