I am both puzzled and
honored by the fact that NDTV has singled me out for legal notice for
“defamation and slander” after MANUSHI published report on NDTV’s alleged
involvement in a mega money laundering scam. Ram Jethmalani had already made public
his correspondence with Chidambaram on this scam. But Ram has not been served a
legal notice. If anything, Prannoy Roy went and personally pleaded with
Jethmalani pleading with him not to take up the case. Likewise, Gurumurthy has
not been sent a legal notice for bringing the matter in the public domain. NDTV
bosses are busy trying to convince Gurumurthy of their innocence!
Does it mean NDTV considers
MANUSHI as a bigger threat? Or do NDTV bosses think I can be frightened and
silenced more easily?
Notice Using Manu Singhvi Strategy:The legal notice sent to me,
MANUSHI TRUST and MANUSHI SANGATHAN by NDTV is actually farcical beyond belief.
It is dated 16 January 2014 and gave me 24 hour notice to “post a full and
complete apology” for my “illegal and irresponsible actions”. But the Notice
was served to me on Saturday, 18 January, 20014 afternoon—both by courier and hand
delivered by a 4 member team from Luthra & Luthra Associates. Thus the
notice was served to me long past the deadline for the demanded “apology”!
Clearly, NDTV’s calculation
is that on Monday, they will use Manu Singhvi strategy of getting the court to
order me to remove my article as well as the video of Srivastava’s conversation
with his lawyer andto restrain me from publishing anything further on the
NDTV bosses charge me with
having used an “anonymous bundle of papers” for putting in the public domain
all the charges against them. I repeat what I said in my original article, the
bundle of papers may have come from an anonymous source but the documents it
contained are official proceedings of Income Tax department as well as court
orders. (For the article that
invited this legal notice click here)
Independent Voice like MANUSHI a Threat to Politically Patronized Media: It is
not surprising that a politically patronized media organization like NDTV,
which has many a skeletons in its cupboard, should want to gag a voice like
MANUSHI which is widely respected as one of the few independent, nonpartisan platforms
in Indian journalism. MANUSHI chose the difficult path of being a reader
supported magazine. As a policy we neither accept commercial or even government
ads, nor take grants from any international donor agency. We have survived on a
shoe string budget mainly through unpaid voluntary labour. Every single
contribution to MANUSHI along with our annual audited accounts is posted on our
website as a routine act of transparency.
NDTV bosses need to answer
the substantive questions raised by the MANUSHI, instead of trying to use the
courts to shut one of the few surviving voices of independent journalism. The
Notice quotes selectively from certain court orders as a peg to frighten
MANUSHI. But those court orders have no connection with charges of money
laundering and tax evasion against NDTV.
NDTV avoids mention of the
latest order of the CBI Court dated 14 December 2011 which left the issues
raised by Srivastava before that Court open on merit.
Definition of Sexual Harassment: Regarding the alleged
sexual harassment of two women officers by Srivastava, NDTV is either
concealing or deliberately ignoring the inquiry report of the Vishakha
Committee of the Income Tax Department which was headed by a female Chief
Commissioner of IT and also had a female advocate practicing in the Supreme Court
as its member among several other female members. All of them came to the
conclusion that there was no substance in the charge of sexual harassment. It is noteworthy that these two
women had projected Srivastava’s complaints of corruption against them as an
instance of sexual harassment. This
amounts to saying that a woman is right in crying rape simply because someone
caught her stealing. Even they did not make a case that Srivastava had molested
them or made sexual advances. This is gross misuse of the law meant toprotect
women from sexual assaults and demeaning forms of sexual attention. (Click here for the report of Vishakha Committee of IT Department).
This is the key reason why
the Vishakha Committee rejected the charge of sexual harassment leveled by
Sumana Sen (IRS 99005) and Ashima Neb (IRS 99010) against Srivastava. Tomorrow
Barkha Dutt might sue Madhu Kishwar on charges of sexual harassment because
I’ve published an account of the alleged financial fraud Barkha is part of!
Reply to Bribe Charges: The notice has conveniently ignored the
nexus between one of these two officers (Sumana Sen) & NDTV. Sen’s husband
was employed by NDTV while she was working as Assessing Officer of NDTV and all
its directors. She concealed from the IT authorities, this fact of conflict of
interest. She travelled abroad for
pleasure at the cost of the NDTV while acting as Assessing officer of
NDTV. This fact too is being concealed
The notice is vainly
preaching to me what NDTV does not practice. I’m accused of not having taken their version into
account. But I relied on ongoing court cases and documents; mine was not an
opinion piece. Did NDTV take into
account Srivastava’s version when they run a news article on this issue on 16
January 2014? In that news report they did not even disclose their own vested
interest, including the entrenched commercial interest of NDTV in the matter.
The notice also conceals the order dated 31/12/2013 of the Dispute
Resolution Panel of Income Tax Department – a statutory authority – which has
upheld the findings of money laundering by the Assessing Officer to the extent
of Rs 900 crores in one year alone
Besides, the Notice also conceals that NDTV moved the Delhi High Court
in the Writ Petition (Civil No. 7312 of 2013) seeking a restraint against
Income Tax Department and the Dispute Resolution Panel from considering the
evidence of Srivastava. NDTV immediately
withdrew their Writ Petition when the Court enquired why Srivastava had not
been impleaded by NDTV.What is more, the Income Tax Department went ahead and
recorded the evidence of Srivastava rejecting the objections of NDTV in the matter. (For statement of Srivastava
recorded on oath click here).
NDTV could not muster
courage to cross examine Srivastava though called upon to do so by the Income
Tax Department. This in itself speaks volumes about the credibility of NDTV in
merely discharged its journalistic obligations in furtherance of larger public
interest. Those who think that they are
adversely affected by it should answer the issues on merit, instead of
attempting to gag the MANUSHI and intimidate it into silence. It is
particularly reprehensible coming from a media house which misused journalistic
freedom for devious purposes and serving partisan political ends.
For viewing S.K. Srivastava’s account to his lawyers, click here for video.
(Links to Ram Jethmalani letters: http://www.scribd.com/doc/190072062/Ram-Jethmalani-s-letter-to-P-Chidambaram-in-NDTV-money-laundering-matter, http://www.scribd.com/doc/193677788/P-Chidambaram%E2%80%99s-reply-to-Ram-Jethmalani-and-Ram-Jethmalani-s-reply-to-P-Chidambaram-in-NDTV-money-laundering-matter)