A Delhi court Monday sent two Zee TV network journalists to judicial custody till Dec 22 for an alleged bid to extort Rs.100-crore from a Jindal Group firm. Police have sought permission to conduct a lie detector test on the two accused and Zee Group chairman Subhash Chandra, their employer.
Metropolitan Magistrate Sudhanshu Kaushik posted the matter for Dec 12, while issuing notice to the two journalists and Zee Group chairman Subhash Chandra on police application.
"Since the investigating officer has not sought their further custody, they are remanded in judicial custody till Dec 22," the court said while sending the accused to judicial custody.
Sudhir Chaudhary, head of Zee News, and Samir Ahluwalia, head of Zee Business, were arrested here Nov 27 on charges of attempting to extort Rs.100 crore from Jindal Power and Steel Ltd. (JPSL) in exchange for not filing news reports linking the firm to the irregular coal blocks allocation.
Police moved an application seeking permission to conduct a lie detector test on the two journalists and Chandra, whose two-day questioning ended Sunday.
The investigators also sought permission to conduct a voice sample test on the two journalists.
Chandra, Zee Group managing director Puneet Goenka and the two journalists were brought face-to-face and questioned Saturday and Sunday.
Police booked both the journalists under Sections 384 (extortion), 120(b) (criminal conspiracy) and 511 (punishment for attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Before arresting Chaudhary and Ahluwalia, police also charged them under Section 420 (cheating).
Both journalists were accused of demanding Rs.100 crore from Jindal Group in the form of advertisements to the channel.
Jindal had released a CD which purportedly showed footage in which the Zee journalists were trying to strike a deal with his company officials, telling them that their TV news channel would not air negative stories on Jindal Group if the money was paid to them.
Jindal, who is chairman of JPSL, had earlier claimed that the Zee executives had demanded Rs.20 crore for four years and they secretly filmed the meetings. They later raised the demand to Rs.100 crore for not broadcasting stories against the company in relation to the allocation of coal blocks, Jindal alleged.
JPSL is among the companies named in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report as one of the beneficiaries of the controversial coal blocks allocation.
Zee News chief executive officer Alok Agarwal at a press conference defended its journalists, saying "Our executives' arrest is illegal. We strongly condemn arrests of our two executives."