Its a sting operation and the TV channel seems to be at the receiving end. Along with its FIR against Zee TV,Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) has provided the police with audio and video recordings of telephone conversations and three meetings held on September 13,17 and 19 between Zee and JSPL officials at Delhis Hyatt Regency.
The recordings have been sent for forensic analysis by police,sources said.
JSPL has named Essel Group chairman Subhash Chandra and his son Punit Goenka as co-accused in its FIR alleging criminal conspiracy,extortion,criminal intimidation and defamation by Zee News Ltd and its officials.
The FIR alleges that Zee News editor and business head Sudhir Chaudhary and Zee Business editor and business head Samir Ahluwalia told JSPL officials at a meeting that the reports targeting JSPL and the demand of Rs 100 crore to stop their telecast was company strategy devised in consultation with the senior management.
Countering allegations by JSPL,Zee News has alleged that its executives were offered a bribe of Rs 100 crore to slow down its investigation into JSPLs role in the alleged coal block allotment scam.
Chaudhary,named as the prime accused in the FIR filed by JSPL on October 2,is also reported to have told the Broadcast Editors Association on Wednesday that JSPL executives offered to pay Rs 20 crore a year for five years to halt the telecast of the reports.
Neither Zee nor JSPL responded to queries from The Indian Express.
JSPLs extortion complaint followed an ugly public showdown between the two parties around a month ago. JSPL boss and Congress MP Naveen Jindal manhandled a Zee News correspondent on September 10 after the latter stopped him outside a five-star hotel in Delhi and sought a comment on his role in the alleged coal block allocation scam.
Zee News had broadcast a series of reports on the coal block allocations in the last week of August,and named the Jindal,Tata and Darda groups,Manoj Jayaswal of the Abhijeet group and some DMK leaders among others as beneficiaries of the alleged scam.
JSPLs FIR says that Zees editor-executives Chaudhary and Ahluwalia asked for Rs 100 crore in the shape of advertisement funds for stopping negative reports. The FIR says: They (Chaudhary and Ahluwalia) promised to ensure that this malicious campaign against our company and its management would die out in case we agree to pay them,else they threatened to not only restart but heighten the vilification campaign against us.
According to the FIR,Zee News and Zee Business had run false,malicious,misleading and defamatory news/reports/shows against JSPL,with their attacks increasing in intensity between September 7 and 13.
Following this,JSPL had sought a meeting with Zee executives,and on September 13,three of its officials allegedly met Ahluwalia at the Hyatt. At the meeting,says the FIR,Ahluwalia allegedly sought Rs 20 crore as advertisement funds to put a stop to the said reports,and Jindal officials sought time to discuss this internally,the FIR says.
At a subsequent meeting held on September 17,Chaudhary joined Ahluwalia,and this time the demand went up to Rs 100 crore,alleges the FIR. Failing to reach a consensus,the parties met a third time on September 19. JSPL still made no commitment to Zee,and finally lodged the FIR with the Crime Branch of Delhi Police.