A Delhi court today dismissed the bail application of top Zee News editors Sudhir Chaudhary and Samir Ahluwalia, charged with trying to extort Rs. 100 crore from Congress MP Naveen Jindal's steel company.
"Investigation is at preliminary stage. It was (bail application) earlier dismissed by the duty Metropolitan Magistrate... No fresh ground has arisen since then... Hence in my considered opinion it has being dismissed," the court said today.
Mr Chaudhary, the channel's Group Editor, and Mr Ahluwalia, the business head, were arrested on November 27 by the Delhi police's Crime Branch in the case registered on a complaint by Jindal Steel Power Limited (JSPL). The two were sent to 14 days in judicial custody on November 30.
This is the second time they have been denied bail. They were earlier denied bail on November 28, a day after they were arrested and sent to police custody for two days.
The two journalists face charges of extortion and criminal conspiracy. Punishment for the first is a maximum imprisonment of three years or fine or both. For criminal conspiracy, it's up to six months or fine or both.
Mr Jindal has alleged that Zee News tried to extort Rs. 100 crore in exchange for not airing unfavourable stories linking him and his group to the coal blocks allocation scam, which rocked the UPA government earlier this year.
Zee News called the arrest as an attempt by the Congress-led governments at the Centre to gag the media and cover up the coal scam.
"After 65 years of independence, the present Congress-led government is pushing the media to not speak the truth and gag it. The arrests have been made to sensationalise the issue and lend a cover to the coal scam and in particular favour Naveen Jindal, Congress MP, and his company JSPL," the company said in a statement.
The Delhi Police's Crime Branch has issued a notice to Zee TV owner Subhash Chandra in the case.
On October 25, Mr Jindal had released a video-recording of meetings with executives of Zee TV and claimed this to be proof that they were trying to extort money from him. He said the news channel told his company's executives that if they did not spend Rs. 100 crore on advertising, the channel would run negative stories on allocation of coal fields to his firm.