Bail plea hearing of Zee journos adjourned

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 18:02 hrs

A Delhi court on Saturday deferred the hearing till Monday on bail pleas of two journalists of Zee News channel, who were arrested over charges of trying to extort Rs 100 crore from Congress MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal by manipulating their reportage on the alleged coal block allocation scam.

The court on Friday sent the duo to a 14-day judicial custody.

The arrests of Sudhir Chaudhary, head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, head of Zee Business, on Tuesday on charges of extortion came following the registration of a case around 45 days ago on a police complaint filed by Jindal´s company Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL).

Media group Zee Network on Wednesday said the arrests of the two senior journalists were ´illegal´.

Zee News said the arrests were an attempt by the ´Congress-led government´ to gag the media.

"After 65 years of independence, the present Congress-led government is pushing the media to not speak the truth and to gag it. It is practically the Emergency revisited in India on November 27, 2012, a day that will also be known as a black day in Indian history," read a Zee News statement.

"While the matter is sub-judice before the honourable High Court of Bombay, to circumvent the judicial process and the orders of the honourable High Court, the Delhi Police, at the behest of a Congress MP, orchestrated the arrests of two senior editors of Zee News, Samir Ahluwalia and Sudhir Chowdhary, on the basis of a fraudulent and contrived complaint filed on behalf of his company, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL)," the statement said.

"The arrests have been made to sensationalise the issue and to lend a cover to the coal scam and in particular to favour Naveen Jindal, Congress MP, and his company JSPL," it said.

Steel and energy company JSPL on the same day criticised Zee Network for calling the arrest of its two journalists a ´Black Day for the media´ and said the remarks were ´unfortunate´.

Last month Zee News said it had filed a Rs 150 crore defamation suit against Jindal for the "unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations", in a counter-punch to the latter's Rs 200 crore case against the private broadcaster.

While Zee's suit came following an expose by JSPL that published purported audio-video evidence of an attempt to extort money in return of quashing negative reportage, Jindal had sued the news channel over the same issue.

Zee News has denied accusations levelled by Jindal that the private broadcaster had tried to blackmail him.

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