Posts Tagged ‘Prashant Bhushan’

Arvind Kejriwal taunts Ambani on TV ‘sue’ threat

23 January 2013

ambani_keriwal_0111

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Last month, India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and its most powerful business house, Reliance Industries, shot off a seven-page legal notice to several TV news channels for airing anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal‘s allegations against them in October and November last year.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, neither Kejriwal nor his advocate-partner, Prashant Bhushan, heard from RIL’s lawyers, A.S. Dayal & Associates, on their charges of Ambani’s Swiss bank accounts and hanky-panky in the Krishna-Godavari basin by RIL, which were covered “live” by the TV channels.

Not surprisingly, or perhaps not, Kejriwal is now believed to have written to Mukesh Ambani, who is now also a media player, urging him inter alia to stop “threatening the media”. Excerpts:

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Shri Mukesh Ambaniji

Recently you have sent a legal notice to all TV channels in the county. Their fault is that they “live” telecast the press conference addressed by Prashant Bhushan and me on 31 October 2012 and 9 November 2012.

We, in our press conferences, informed the citizens of India on how you illegally pressured the government for a hike in fuel prices. Our expose was covered “live” by many TV channels.

You have sent them a legal notice for defamation suit.

I am not able to understand this.

If you have been defamed by Prashant Bhushan and me, then we are at fault. Why has the notice been sent to TV channels and not us? This clearly reveals that your motive was to exert pressure on the TV channels….

According to your company, the “live” telecast by TV channels is a case of defamation.

Just think through: is it really me or Prashant Bhushan or the TV channels who have defamed you, or have you yourself defamed your image by your acts?

I request you do not try to threaten the media of this country.

There could be a few people in the media who are biased; they can follow you.

Still, there are many journalists who work for this country. They will not be influenced by you. History is witness that such journalists come forward to save democracy.

There could be some media houses where you could have directly or indirectly invested money; they could come under your control. But the journalists working for them will not.

Yours, etc

Arvind Kejriwal

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Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

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Also read: ‘RIL has no direct stake in media companies’

Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Mukesh Ambani ‘sues’ TV channels on Kejriwal

10 January 2013

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SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and India’s most powerful business house, Reliance Industries, are believed to have served a legal notice on several TV news channels for airing anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal‘s allegations against them in October and November last year.

However, it is not known if Kejriwal, a former IRS officer, and his advocate-partner, Prashant Bhushan, have heard from RIL’s lawyers on the charges made by them at the  press conferences which were covered “live” by the TV channels with accompanying commentary.

It is also unclear if  newspapers which reported Kejriwal’s allegations of Ambani’s Swiss bank accounts and hanky-panky in the Krishna-Godavari basin by RIL have attracted similar legal attention from the less-litigious of the two Ambani brothers.

In the seven-page legal notice shot off in the middle of December 2012, Mukesh Ambani and RIL have demanded “a retraction and an unconditional apology in the form approved and acceptable to our clients” within three days from the receipt of the notice.

The notices have been served by the Bombay legal firm, A.S. Dayal & Associates.

***

Besides accusing the channels of “deliberately and recklessly” airing “false and defamatory statements” with an intent to “defame our clients and bring them into disrepute”, the legal notice makes the following points:

# “Your TV Channel provided a platform and instrumentality for wide dissemination of the false and defamatory statements and allegations made at the said press conference.”

# “Live telecast of these press conferences amounts to permanent publication of defamatory material relating to our client by you.”

# “Each of the two press conferences were telecast live without making any attempt to verify the truth or veracity of the statements and allegations being made during the press conference.”

# “Apart from having telecast the press conferences live, Your TV Channel  in the course of several television programmes and televised debates that followed after the said press conferences, continued to telecast, transmit and retransmit the defamatory footage of the press conferences.”

***

More ominously, the Ambani-RIL notice reminds the channels:

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that Your TV Channel is bound by the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking from India dated 5th December 2011, issued by the ministry of information & broadcasting, government of India.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that since Your TV Channel is a news and current affairs TV Channel, the provisions of the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines apply to Your TV Channel, which inter alia provide that a Company, like Your TV Channel, which runs a news and current affairs TV channel, is obliged to comply with the Programme Code as laid down in the Cable Television Network (Regulations) Act, 1995, and the Rules framed thereunder.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that in telecasting the aforesaid press conferences and repeating the false and defamatory material relating to our clients in the manner aforesaid Your TV Channel is in complete violation of the said Uplinking Guidelines, and the said Downlinking Guidelines as also in complete and material breach of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules.”

***

The RIL legal notice brings to question the wisdom of broadcasting “live” Kejriwal’s near-weekly press conferences towards the end of last year, sans any filters or fetters.

On the other hand, the authoritarian tone of the legal notice—reminding the recipients of uplinking and downlinking norms—throws light on the egg-shells on which private TV stations are walking in the “free” Republic.

The legal notice also swings the spotlight on big business ownership of and shadow over the media, especially when it is alleged to have both the main political parties, the Congress and BJP, in its pocket.

For the record, RIL is in the media business too. Both CNN-IBN and IBN7 are part of the Reliance stable following a controversial and circuitous takeover at the turn of 2012 that now has earned the OK of the competition commission of India (CCI).

***

Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

***

Also read: ‘RIL has no direct stake in media companies’

Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Shekhar Gupta slams conflict of interest charge

17 January 2012

Shekhar Gupta, the editor-in-chief of The Indian Express, has responded to a press release from a nine bunch of activists led by the Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan that the sponsorship of the Ramnath Goenka awards for excellence in journalism this year was tainted by allegations of conflict of interest.

Bhushan & Co had linked coverage of some environmental issues in the Indian Express with the lead sponsor of the Express awards, Jaypee Group and associate sponsor Mahyco Monsanto.

A news report in today’s Express carrying news of the awards’ fete quotes Gupta as saying:

“Their implication is that these companies paid us back as sponsors of this event. Such insinuations aren’t new for The Indian Express…. Be it governments, corporates, political parties, all tend to attribute motives to what we report whenever they disagree with it…. Now there’s another group that’s joined these ranks.

“Activists, a section of civil society, individuals who push and prod governments and institutions and play a vital role in our democracy. We hold them in respect as we do everyone we cover and the only professional way to cover them is through good journalism, by sifting their noise from their news. And by remaining committed to what is virtually inscribed in our DNA: the code under which the wall between editorial and advertising in The Indian Express has always been and will always be impregnable.”

Photograph: courtesy Neeraj Priyadarshi/ The Indian Express

Read the full article: Vibrant journalism watchdog… not sunshine journalism

Also read: Conflict of interest in Indian Express journalism awards?

Indian Express, Bhushans and the scoop that wasn’t

Express, NDTV, Hindustan Times and the Bhushans

Indian Express, NDTV & the “scoop” that wasn’t

27 April 2011

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PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There has been a brief hiatus to the “crude and disgusting character assassination” of the father-son lawyer-pair of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan, after the Union government made it clear the insinuations would not sway the composition or functioning of the committee to draft the Lokpal bill.

Now, as if to show the world that they are no wimps, the Bhushans have hit back—and how.

A week after Shekhar Gupta‘s Indian Express front-paged two reports (Part I, Part II) in what Common Cause, the organisation founded by Arun Shourie‘s father, calls “an orchestrated campaign of calumny, slander and insinuation”, the Bhushans have issued a four-page clarification on the allotment of two 10,000 square metre plots that so riled the paper and—no surprise—NDTV 24×7, which repeatedly asked “Should Bhushans Quit?

The point-by-point rejoinder punches big, gaping holes in every single claim imputed by the Express lead story on April 20, authored by the paper’s Noida correspondent Pragya Kaushika and investigative reporter Ritu Sarin, and a follow-up story on April 21 authored by Krishnadas Rajagopal and Tanu Sharma.

In fact, it turns out, Express based the stories on an aggrieved allottee, whose petition for a better location of the plot than the one alotted to him and the Bhushans, had been thrown out by the Allahabad high court four days earlier, on April 16, a fact which Express artfully hid from readers.

Express also did not disclose to readers that a public interest litigation (PIL) challenging the scheme/allotments had been dismissed by a bench of the Allahabad high court in 2010.

# Express: “Bhushans get two prime farmhouse plots from Mayawati government for a song”.

Bhushans: The total price of the property is Rs 3.67 crore, plus additional annual lease rent of Rs 9.18 lakh per year for 90 years, which amounts to more than Rs 75,000 per month. “It seems some people have misunderstood the first instalment as the total cost of the land.”

***

# Express: “The political class may be evil and corrupt but that’s whom the Bhushans turn to when they want a farmhouse each—for a song.”

Bhushans: The allotment of land was not from any discretionary quota but from a regular scheme which was advertised in the newspapers and was open to any person. The Bhushans applied in March 2009, were interviewed in May 2009, and allotted the land in January 2010. They received the land in January 2011. By the time of the allotment, the rate of the land had gone up from Rs 3,100 per square metre to Rs 3,500 per square metre.”

***

# Express: The allotment raises “questions of conflict of interest, as [Shanti Bhushan's son and Prashant Bhushan's brother] Jayant Bhushan has appeared against Mayawati in the Noida statue park case.”

Bhushans: There is no connection between the cases and the plots. The Noida park case was argued by Jayant Bhushan tooth and nail in full media glare right till the end, as can be gauged from the judgement delivered…. “In fact, even now Prashant Bhushan and Shanti Bhushan are appearing against the Mayawati government in the Taj corridor case. The question of favouring the Bhushans by the Mayawati government does not arise.”

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# Express: “In his declaration of assets, Shanti Bhushan… did not mention the discretionary manner in which Mayawati government allotted this land.”

Bhushans: “This allotment was not made under any discretionary quota. No criterion for allotment was mentioned either in the advertisement or the subsequent brochure of the scheme…. The brochure did not indicate on what basis the allotment would be made in case the number of applicants was more than the number of plots.”

***

# Express: “This allotment of Noida farmland is now the subject matter of case in the Allahabad high court by another allottee, former additional solicitor-general Vikas Singh.”

Bhushans: A PIL filed in the Allahabad high court challenging the scheme/allotments was dismissed last year by a bench of the HC. Another writ petition filed by Vikas Singh was dismissed by the Allahabad high court on 16 April 2011, ie four days before the Express “expose” appeared.

***

# Express: The cost of each farmhouse is Rs 3.5 crore and allottees had to pay just 10%—Rs 35 lakh—at the time of allotment, the rest in 16 instalments. This is less than a quarter of the market rate, according to Vikas Singh’s petition.”

Bhushans: “Allegations that the Bhushans have been charged less than the market price are totally unsubstantiated. No sales have taken place in the open market. No one has explained how the alleged market rate had been arrived at.”

***

# Express: On April 16, the Allahabad High Court heard a bunch of writ petitions, including that of Vikas Singh.

Bhushans: The petitions of Vikas Singh and two other persons who had not as yet been allotted a plot, was dismissed by Allahabad HC on 16 April 2011.

***

# Express: “The manner in which the farmland was allotted has been challenged in court.”

Bhushans: Vikas Singh’s grievance was that the better plots had been allotted to favoured persons and that his plot was in a very bad location. The Bhushans have been given plots in a totally undeveloped area unapproachable by any proper road. The delay in and poor location of the allotted land may be the reason.

***

# Express: “When it comes to individuals getting land allotted from the government much below market rates and without any lottery or auction, the Bhushans have always claimed to hold high standards of probity—for others.”

Bhushans: “No criterion for allotment was mentioned either in the advertisement or in the subsequent brochureof the scheme. Applicants were called for an interview which was supposed to determine their aiblity to pay the requisite amounts for the plot and to determine what the applicants planned to do with their plots…. The brochure did not indicate on what basis the allotment would be made in case the number of applicants was more than the number of plots. Even when the allotment was made, it was unclear as to whether at all the number of applicants was greater than the number of plots or whether a draw of lots should have taken place.”

Nevertheless, Express ran a quarter-page advertisement gloating over the “scoop” that wasn’t on April 21, the day the second story appeared. The Express story also became the cue card for the political class which wanted the Bhushans to subject themselves to the same scrutiny they subject others.

Also read: Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Swami Agnivesh has a question for Barkha Dutt

21 April 2011

A champagne moment of live television, 39 minutes and 48 seconds into NDTV’s Buck Stops Here show on Wednesday, April 20, the year of the lord 2011.

Star-anchor Barkha Dutt goes on and on about whether  Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan should continue to stay as civil society representatives on the Lokpal drafting committee given the charges they were facing.

Barkha Dutt: “Swami Agnivesh… you will see that the number of people who had to resign from public office—and many people believe this is a good thing—just because of suspicion or allegations or accusations, I mean, from Shashi Tharoor to Ashok Chavan to Sharad Pawar, there are so many different examples where legally, the allegation has not been proven, but even before the trial has begun, these politicians have stepped aside. Now some people are making the argument that those drafting the Lokpal bill must do the same. How do you respond? Do you believe the same standard must be applied as they are applied to politicians?”

Swami Agnivesh: “Well, Barkhaji, let me put it to you this way. Supposing there is an accusation of corruption on some mediaperson who is an anchor of a very famous TV channel, and if that person is initiating debate after debate on corruption and such [a] person is asked, first get yourself cleared of all these allegations and then only you will have a moral right to start or initiate a debate on corruption, should that person step down? What would be your answer?”

Barkha Dutt: “My answer would be very simple. My answer would be that we all must answer to the same levels of scrutiny that we subject other people to, and that is exactly what we are debating, whether that should take the shape of answering questions, whether that should take the shape of stepping down, will vary from case to case. And that remains my position. Justice [Santosh] Hegde would you disagree?”

Also read: Barkha Dutt & Vir Sanghvi: ‘We were targetted’

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