Zee, Jindal trade defamation charges

Last Updated: Sat, Oct 27, 2012 18:56 hrs

Zee News on Saturday said it had filed a Rs 150 crore defamation suit against Congress MP and industrialist Naveen 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 comes following an expose by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd that published purported audio-video evidence of an attempt to extort money in return of quashing negative reportage, Jindal had sued the news channel on Thursday over the same issue.

"Zee News has granted a three-day time period to Naveen Jindal to withdraw all his unsubstantiated and defamatory allegations against Zee News, failing which Mr Jindal would face civil and criminal actions initiated by Zee News," the media house said in a statement.

"In a strong reply to Naveen Jindal and JSPL's press conference on October 25, 2012 where he had alleged wrongdoing on the part of Zee News, Zee News Limited on Saturday has sent a defamation notice to the tune of Rs 150 crore against Mr Naveen Jindal and JSPL," Zee said.

"Zee News has condemned and completely rejected the doctored evidence produced by Jindal. Zee News sees this as a deliberate attempt to malign the trustworthy Television Network," the news channel said.

Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) also issued a statement on Saturday saying the defamation suit slapped by it against four people of private broadcaster Zee TV in the Bombay High Court might come up for hearing next week.

"JSPL has filed a defamation suit last Thursday itself , for Rs 200 crores against the 4 persons of ZEE at Bombay High Court," JSPL said.

"Notices for which have already been issued to Subhash Chandra , Puneet Goenka, Sudhir Chaudhary and Sameer Ahluwalia of ZEE News and Zee Business," it said.

"The case is likely to come for hearing next week at Mumbai High Court," read the statement.

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

Jindal on the same day released tapes that showed the conversation between a Zee News reporter and members of his team as he stated the reason behind accusing the news channel of attempted extortion.

Terming Jindal´s media interaction as an attempt to divert attention from demand for independent probe in the Coalgate scam, Zee rejected the CD produced by the Congress MP.

In a statement, Zee News Editor said that "me and my colleague - Samir Ahluwalia, Editor, Zee Business - condemn and completely reject the CD produced by Mr Jindal against us. We see this as a deliberate attempt to malign and to defame us."

"We have been the forerunner in exposing Naveen Jindal's double standard as a politician and industrialist in Coalgate scam."

"To suppress the coverage that Zee News was telecasting on Coalgate, Corporate Communications team from JSPL first tried to bribe Samir Ahluwalia with Rs 25 crore which he declined straightway.

"This was an offer from JSPL to stop the coverage of Coalgate scam. Undeterred the JSPL team offered Zee News and Zee Business and advertising deal of Rs 100 crore, to somehow stop the coverage on air," the statement said.

Also responding to the Broadcast Editor's Association (BEA)'s removal of Zee News Editor Sudhir Chaudhary from its membership of BEA, the channel termed it a premeditated and prejudicial pronouncement by the Ethics Committee in violation of natural justice.

Jindal said he has filed a criminal case against Zee TV in connection to a sting operation on his company´s alleged link to coal block allocations.

He said Zee News had asked him to spend Rs 100 crores on advertising in order to stop a negative story on him.

Releasing CDs of the footage to reporters on Thursday, the Congress MP said the extortion attempt was caught on a hidden camera.

"Broadcast licenses are given for news and not for blackmail and extortion," Jindal said while addressing the press conference.

"Media in our country has to be above suspicion," he said.

"The manner in which Zee TV has carried the news, it has become important for me to share," he said.

More from Sify: