On the day industrialist and former Congress MP Naveen Jindal and the Zee Group announced a settlement over an alleged extortion case involving a coal block allocation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) filed a prosecution complaint for money laundering against Jindal and others accused in a coal block allocation case, and a special court-ordered framing of additional charges of abetment to bribery in the same coal case investigated by the CBI. In the extortion case filed in 2012, the Jindal-owned Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) Friday wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of the Delhi Police Crime Branch, asking the police to “close the investigation” and “file a closure report” against the editorial heads of Zee News and Zee Business TV channels. In its letter, JSPL stated that the matter has been settled and allegations in the FIR were levelled due to “some confusion”. But now, it stated, it is clear that “no offence” was committed.
Zee Group owner Subhash Chandra tweeted: “I am happy that JSPL and Naveen Jindal have withdrawn FIR alleging extortion with Delhi Police against Zee and its editors, similarly Zee has agreed to withdraw all complaints and cases against JSPL and Naveen Jindal. I wish Naveen very best in life.”
Jindal tweeted, “We have resolved all differences that took place because of miscommunication. Happy to leave all behind. Thankyou @subhashchandra ji for your good wishes. Let there be #Peace. @ZeeNews @sudhirchaudhary”.
The case dates back to 2012 when an FIR was registered on JSPL’s complaint that Sudheer Choudhary of Zee News and Sameer Aluhwalia of Zee Business had tried to extort Rs 100 crore in the form of advertisements in exchange for not filing news reports linking the firm to the coal block allocation in 2012.
Both journalists faced charges of forgery, attempt to extort money, among others.
A chargesheet was filed in a chief metropolitan magistrate court in 2013. But the court refused to take cognizance of the case citing “material lacunae” and directed the police to probe further. The order was later upheld by successive superior courts.
The letter, by Rajeev Bhadauria on behalf of JSPL, stated: “The matter has now been settled between both the contesting parties in view of the realization/agreement/ MOU that the allegations in the FIR were levelled due to some confusion /communication gap/ misconception from both sides and now it is clear that no offence has been committed. Hence, we submit that no further police action is required as the dispute arose due to misunderstanding between the two parties, which has now been sorted out and accordingly we wish to withdraw the complaint.
“However,” the letter stated, “both parties shall not hold each other responsible for the present case in future as agreed vide MOU executed on 13.7.2018 executed between the parties.”
Vijay Aggarwal, a lawyer representing the accused, said, “Many cases were pending against both parties. They listened to advice and the issue was sorted out.”
Meanwhile, in the coal scam case pertaining to allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand, the ED filed a prosecution complaint alleging that JSPL, along with former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda, former Coal secretary H C Gupta and others, influenced the screening committee to allot the coal block by “investing more than Rs 2 crore in illegal gratification”.
The court put up the chargesheet, filed through special public prosecutor N K Matta and advocate Tarannum Cheema, against Jindal and other accused, for consideration on August 14.
Special Judge Bharat Parashar also framed additional charges in the CBI case Friday. In April 2016, the court had ordered framing of charges against Jindal, former MoS (Coal) Dasari Narayan Rao (since dead), Koda, Gupta and others for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, criminal breach of trust under the IPC, and sections of Prevention of Corruption Act. The charge under Section 12 (abetment of offences) of Prevention of Corruption Act was not framed then.