Court blasts shoddy probe in Jindal-Zee TV extortion case

A Delhi trial court has refused to take cognisance of the charge-sheet filed by police on a complaint of extortion by industrialist and Congress MP Naveen against Zee Group chairman Subhash Chandra and Zee TV business editors Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia, and directed the police to probe the matter further.

There were major shenanigans earlier this year when the 'coalgate' controversy relating to the alleged irregularities in allotment of coal mining blocks to private companies. Zee News had involved Jindal's company, Jindal Steel Plants Ltd (JSPL), in the scam.

Jindal in turn filed a case alleging that the editors had demanded a bribe of Rs100 crore for suppressing news of JSPL's involvement in the scam.

But Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Amit Bansal last friday, 13 august, seemed to lean towards Zee's argument that the case was false and concocted (See: Zee journalists get bail in Jindal extortion case).

The judge refused to take cognizance of the charge-sheet or first information report (FIR) filed by Delhi Police against the Zee chairman and editors.

In light of objections and pleas on facts raised by Zee News counsel Vijay Aggrawal, the judge returned the chargesheet and ordered Delhi Police to investigate the matter once again; and further that the fresh investigation should be carried out by a police officer ranked not below Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP).

Aggrawal told the media, ''We have no doubt that if the matter is investigated fairly, it is the complainants who will be prosecuted.''

The chief metropolitan magistrate has ordered Delhi Police to report back on 2 December.

''The matter requires further investigation on the material aspects all the mentioned circumstances point out that the matter has not been properly and fully investigated by the IO (investigating officer) and requires further investigation,'' Magistrate Bansal said.

Police had earlier filed its charge sheet against Chandra, Ahluwalia and Chaudhary under various provisions of the Indian Penal Code, including attempt to extortion, attempt to cheating, criminal conspiracy, and destruction of vidence) (See: Zee News blasts arrest of journalists, demands immediate release).

Ordering the further probe in the case, the court said there are ''glaring and material lacunae'' in the case with respect to investigation.

Chaudhary and Ahluwalia were earlier arrested in the case but they are presently on bail.

Dealing with the sections invoked against the three accused, the court said that the offences of both extortion and cheating cannot be simultaneously made out.

''It is thus evident from the bare definition of both the provisions that both these offences are mutually exclusive of each other and cannot be simultaneously invoked against the accused,'' it said, adding sections of cheating and extortion have been invoked in the charge sheet against the accused which is not permissible as per law.

''Further, from the charge sheet the basic ingredients of cheating are absolutely not made out because there is no element of deception or fraud being played by the accused persons upon the complainant. This aspect also requires further investigation by the police,'' it said.