A DAY after after BJD MP from Keonjhar, Chandrani Murmu, accused a regional TV channel of defaming her, she moved a breach of privilege proceeding against the channel on Monday.
Alleging that reporters from OTV had circulated a morphed and obscene video of hers with malicious intent, and that the channel is now trying to shield the alleged perpetrators, Murmu said this has “grievously affected and violated” her privilege as a Lok Sabha MP.
In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, she stated: “I am tendering this notice to you, seeking your protection to ensure that OTV channel be restrained from airing such fake and false stories with a malicious intent to save the reporter Ramesh Rath.”
The channel’s operating officer, Litisha Mangat, said, “OTV vehemently denies these allegations. It is a one-and-a-half year old case and I am told that the trial is on, so the law should take its course.”
According to police, Rath had allegedly instructed his subordinate, Simanchal Patra, to forward the purported video.
“During investigation, we learnt about Rath’s involvement in the case,” investigating officer Jaynarayan Khandei said. “Simanchal Patra, arrested earlier, confessed that he had forwarded the video on Rath’s instructions. He also stated that Rath still had some video evidence with him. His (Rath’s) role is being investigated, but he will be liable under all Sections mentioned in the FIR. More names are likely to come out in the course of investigation.”
Murmu wrote: “Strong and strict action should be taken against OTV and its promoters for using the media to falsify and disseminate lies in the public, with an objective to denying me justice by misleading the public from the core issue of police investigating the morphed, obscene viral video of mine and identifying the culprits with evidence,” Murmu wrote.
Reacting to the development, OTV’s Mangat said, “Since the matter is sub judice, it is not proper for us to comment. But it is surprising that they have woken up to it only now, one day after Ramesh Rath reported RTI activists’ findings regarding the CM’s chopper review of the aerial survey of floods.”
Rath was picked up by the police on Thursday and served a notice for his alleged involvement in the viral video case of 2019.
Simanchal Patra, who worked as a junior reporter with the channel, was arrested on April 19, 2019. Patra had allegedly provided the video to Prashant Mishra, a web journalist who purportedly circulated it among his friends, according to police said.
Patra is out on bail. Rath, who has not been arrested yet, has been served a notice to appear at Keonjhar police station on Wednesday.
After the video emerged online before last year’s General Election, Murmu’s uncle had filed a case against unknown people under different IPC sections and relevant sections of IT Act, 2000.
Keonjhar SP Mitrabhanu Mahapatra said: “A preliminary chargesheet was filed in the case and five persons were booked. All five had circulated the video, and one of the accused had provided the content. We informed the court that investigation was pending and after the chargesheet, investigation was carried out under CrPC 178 (3). A notice has been served to Ramesh Rath and further investigations are underway.”
Following the notice, the channel had alleged that the development came “a day after OTV telecast an expose on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s claims of an aerial survey of flood-hit areas of the state, which was based on RTI revelations.”
The RTI-based report, as mentioned by the channel, had stated that on August 31 “only 1 helicopter of OSS Air Management had taken off from Bhubaneswar airport. The chopper took off and returned to the airport in 19 minutes, which included a flight time of only nine and a half minutes”.
Based on reply received from Biju Patnaik international airport to his RTI queries, RTI activist Srikant Kumar Pakal had raised questions on the CM’s aerial survey. He said, “The chopper was used for 19 minutes for the survey. But conducting an aerial survey within 19 minutes is impossible. The airport authorities have tried to clarify on this but we have filed another RTI seeking information on who had accompanied the CM…”
The Chief Minister’s Office told The Indian Express, “There is nothing more to clarify in the case. Photographs of the aerial survey were circulated the same day and following the survey, the Chief Minister had conducted a review meeting. The technical part was also clarified by the Airport Director…. the allegations levelled are baseless.”
In a statement, airport director Suresh Chandra Hota said: “The CM’s flight departed on 31.8.2020 at 1542 IST from Bhubaneswar and landed back at Bhubaneswar at 1601 IST. All timings with respect to flight movements are in UTC only as per ICAO standards. To get IST timings 0530 hrs are added to UTC timings. As per our SOP for handling of VVIP flights, VVIP means Honourable President, Vice President, Prime Minister of India and foreign heads of state/government.
“(The) actual flying time is 19 minutes, excluding warm-up time, start-up time and apron and taxi time to the runway and return to apron after landing.”
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