Zee journalists get bail in Jindal extortion case

A Delhi court yesterday granted bail to Zee News editors Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia, arrested on an extortion complaint filed by Congress MP Naveen Jindal, who owns Jindal Power and Steel Ltd.

Additional Sessions Judge Raj Rani Mitra granted bail to the two and asked them to furnish a personal bond of Rs50,000 each and surety of the same amount.

Chaudhary, head of Zee News, and Ahluwalia, head of Zee Business, were arrested on Jindal's accusation of demanding Rs100 crore in advertisements to suppress news of the connection of Jindal's company to the 'coalgate' scam, which relates to irregularities in the allotment of captive coal blocks to private companies.

Zee on its part has claimed that it was in fact Jindal who offered them a bribe to suppress news, and has now turned the issue around.

Police booked the two journalists under the Indian Penal Code Sections 384 (extortion), 120(b)(criminal conspiracy) and 511 (attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) of. Before arresting Chaudhary and Ahluwalia, police also charged them under Section 420 (cheating).

Counsel for the journalists Vijay Agrawal said, "My clients were wrongly framed by the police ... court has granted bail to them."

Earlier in court, the counsel said the records of two editors were "unimpeachable" and that their bail could be rejected only if the prosecution proved that they were facing trial in other criminal cases. They added their clients have wives and children to look after and the court should release them after imposing conditions that it deems fit.

The defence had pointed that it was a peculiar case where the first information report was lodged at midnight on a national holiday, 2 October. "This shows how powerful the complainant is, that he has lodged an extortion case against the journalists at midnight," the lawyer said.