Central Bureau of Investigation carried out a raid on 5 June 2017 at the residence and offices of the Roys, the chairpersons of New Delhi Television (NDTV) Network Limited. The searches were conducted in Delhi and Dehradun in accordance with bank frauds of ₹396 crore committed by Prannoy Roy, his wife Radhika Roy and a private company. Roys took ₹396 crore loan from ICICI bank to shell company RRPR Holding (Radhika Roy Prannoy Roy) showing NDTV assests. ₹21 crore and ₹71 crore were then diverted to the bank accounts of the husband-wife duo respectively.
Some facts that need to be highlighted:
- Most of those questioning as to why a 9-year old case is being brought to light now don’t know that the Roys are under close investigation by government agencies for contraventions of tax laws and laws involving foreign money since mid-2000s. This case of ₹396 crore to NDTV is against them being a wilful defaulter.
- Those claiming that it is the Central government’s vendetta politics, there is a surprising twist here. The case would have never seen the light of the day had the 2G Spectrum Scam would never have been unearthed. When the investigation on the Aircel-Maxis deal in the 2G Scam started in 2012, it was found that even NDTV was also a party to it. Recently the offices of ex-Finance Minister P Chidambaram and his son, Karthi Chidambaram were raided due to their alleged connection with Maxis and the “illegal approval” of money transfer. The case has been slapped on NDTV under Prevention of Corruption Act.
- In 2013, Sanjay Dutt, director of a financial-services firm Quantum Securities who owned around 125,000 shares in NDTV, had filed complaints with Enforcement Directorate and Directorate General of Income Tax alleging that that NDTV and its promoters had violated a number of laws. In January 2015, Dutt had filed a writ petition in Delhi High Court against Enforcement Directorate and Directorate General of Income Tax Investigation alleging that both agencies failed to act on his complaints. It was on the orders of the Delhi High Court, that the Enforcement Directorate, in November last year, had slapped a show cause notice to NDTV for flouting foreign exchange regulations while bringing foreign investments to the tune of ₹2,030 crore between 2007-10.
- Such is the reputation of the media group, that Sree Iyer, an inventor with 37 patents in the areas of Hardware, Software, Encryption and Systems has written a book NDTV Frauds, which has been published and is an Amazon Bestseller.
- Talking about the “honest” voice of journalism, the channel, incidentally has been facing financial crunch after the Congress lost power in 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Due to the lowest TRP among the genre of Business channels, NDTV Profit has already been taken off-air. During the quarter ending 31 December 2016, NDTV had reported a consolidated revenue loss of ₹18 crore following a dip in advertising revenue. The losses have reached a stage where the channel has put its assets on sale.
Talking about “independent” voice of journalism, NDTV came under severe criticism for its coverage on the terror attack at Pathankot airbase. In November last year, the inter-ministerial panel constituted by I&B Ministry had ordered one-day ban on the channel. Neither the ban was executed nor did NDTV apologize for the coverage.
Dramatic Reaction by intellectuals:
- The National Editor of The Indian Express, Mr. Praveen Swami went on to say that the raid was “barbaric” and a “defining moment”! His colleague and another media intellectual Tavleen Singh went to the point saying that India should oppose every CBI raid! To readers who don’t know, CBI conducts raids throughout the week. Until, it gives Media some TRPs, they never get highlighted. How may have been a defining moment? Did CBI raids become a “defining” moment when the Indira Gandhi or M Karunanidhi was out of power? They couldn’t even stop them from coming back in power! How is a raid on a businessman/ executive/ politician/ film star defined as Law Enforcement and that on a media house as an assault on democracy?
- Ravish Kumar, the highest authority on Freedom of Expression is supposedly the most vocal journalist against this raid. But it is a case of opportunism that this freedom is evoked when their fraud is probed.Ravish Kumar has time and again raised serious allegations on media houses. Isn’t it ironic, that when people or law enforcement sing the same tune, they are considered “biased”? Why aren’t the phrases like “Godi Media” used when the channel toed the line of congress during UPA rule of 2004-2014? The screen of NDTV was blackened when NDTV was banned for a day (which never happened) and a new term was coined “Baago mei baahar hai!” The same anchor was tight-lipped when his brother was embroiled in sex racquet and sister in corruption charges.
- The next in the line of intellectuals is Barkha Dutt for whom; Burhan Wani is the son of a poor schoolmaster; for whom Osama Bin Laden was a loving husband, a caring father but not a terrorist; for whom killing of Army men is justified by gullible Kashmiris or that of CRPF men by Naxalities.Or it is Nidhi Razdan who still holds PM Modi responsible for 2002 riots when even the Supreme Court has given him a clean chit. Cannot stand 90 minutes of investigation by the same CBI which investigated then CM of Gujarat for 9 hours and consequently 9 years straight?
The Way Ahead:
The channel which has been the champion of “Let the law take its course” slogan should let the law function this time too. Instead of playing victim card like Tarun Tejpal, the Roys should go to the court and prove CBI wrong. If Vijay Mallya escaped from Indian law enforcement, doesn’t mean that it is a free-pass for all law breakers. If they have done nothing wrong, then there is no need to be scared. Fight the case on one side and highlight the wrong-doings of government on other side. Expose the vendetta of the government, if there is one; or else stop being a crybaby!
NDTV should remember that it one among 15 lakh registered companies in India, involved in business and not an “institution of India”. Doctors get their licenses revoked if they indulge in malpractices and government servants face suspension if caught in corruption. There are some standards set for becoming a teacher or a lawyer, but only connections to become a journalist. But media houses like them never face any action for failing to abide by the standards or doing PR work or even manufacturing facts. (Remember Neera Radia tapes?)
We do need institutions that can act as watchdogs in a democracy, but that institution cannot be built with the arrogance that you proudly possess. That institution has to have the relationship of mutual respect, trust, and accountability with the public. Had NDTV been doing their job, atleast people from their own fraternity would have supported them.
Hence, their treatment as any other business is not the problem, their irresponsible prerogative is.