The Supreme Court Friday said Zee News editors Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia will have to submit their voice samples in connection with a case of alleged extortion from a company of industrialist and Congress leader Naveen Jindal.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur said the two would not need to read out the exact paragraphs as recorded on the audio tape but the voice samples must be given by them in terms of their consent that had helped them secure bail. The audio tape contains an alleged incriminatory conversation between the Zee editors and Jindal.
The two face investigation on charges of forgery and attempting to extort money from Jindal’s company JSPL in exchange for not filing news reports linking his firm to the coal block allocation in 2012.
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Making it clear that the petitioners — Chaudhary and Ahluwalia — could not decide on the text of the samples, the bench said that experts from the Central Forensic Science Laboratory and investigators shall frame the exact text for the voice sample test and will adduce it before the court for its vetting.
The bench told senior advocate Aman Lekhi, who was representing the editors, that it would ensure their rights are not violated but a balance has to be struck between the rights of the accused and the State in carrying out a fair investigation.
Lekhi, on his part, had underlined that submitting voice samples may violate fundamental rights of his clients when Article 20 (3) laid down that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
The resistance to give voice samples had Wednesday irked the bench, which had asked Chaudhary and Ahluwalia to choose between “the consent or jail”. The bench had observed: “You have been given bail on the condition of cooperating with the investigation. And you have also given your consent for the voice samples. If you don’t want to do it now, you withdraw your consent and get ready to go to jail.”
The bench had cautioned the duo that the court would vacate its 2015 order whereby authorities were directed not to take any coercive action against the petitioners for taking the voice samples.