NEW DELHI — In one day, NDTV, India’s most respected TV news channel, has been served two notices worth over Rs 14,000 crore — one by a private company and another by a central government agency. This has happened just days after raids by Income Tax department at some media outlets including The Quint and The News Minute.
ED Issues Show-Cause Notice to NDTV for FEMA Violation
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday served a show-cause notice on news broadcaster NDTV for allegedly flouting foreign exchange regulations in availing of overseas and foreign direct investment facilities of over Rs 4,300 crore.
In a statement, the financial probe agency said: “The investigation showed FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) contraventions relating to receipt of foreign direct investment by NDTV to the extent of Rs 1,637 crore and the other relating to overseas investments to the tune of RS 2,732 crore.”
The show-cause notice, issued under the FEMA, was issued to the founders and executive co-chairpersons of the group — Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy, journalist Vikram Chandra and a few others.
The ED also issued notice to Harpreet Singh Duggal of NGEN Media Services Pvt. Ltd, Anshuman Misra of Turner General Entertainment Networks India Pvt Ltd, Sameer Chandran Nair, who was earlier Director in NDTV Imagine Pictures Ltd and Alliance Lumiere Ltd, Grant Scott Ferguson of South Asia Creative Assets Ltd.
The financial probe agency said: “The investigation revealed that NDTV received FDI of Rs 725 crore and that only CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) was competent to permit FDI in excess of Rs 600 crore.”
“In the case of NDTV no CCEA approval was taken,” it said, adding that the FDI was projected as below Rs 600 crore as part of “larger conspiracy”.
NDTV Ltd’s another subsidiary — NGEN Media Services Pvt. Ltd., which has now been merged with Genpact India Ltd — has also been charged with delays in reporting and filing information with RBI to the extent of Rs 30.48 crore.
NDTV Rejects FEMA Violation Allegations, Says Being Targeted for Independent Journalism
“NDTV maintains that it is being targeted for its fair and independent journalism and that its persecution is intended to signal to other media that unless they fall in line, they will face similar consequences.
Raids on media owners are further evidence of this,” said the channel.
Anil Ambani’s Reliance Sues NDTV for Rs 10k Cr for Rafale Coverage
On the day of ED notice on Thursday, the TV channel was also sued by industrialist Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group for Rs 10,000 crore. NDTV has been highlighting the controversial Rafale jet deal wherein Reliance got offset contracts from a French defence firm as the central government allegedly favored it over the state-run HAL which was in talks with the French company for the same contracts for past several years.
Reliance has filed the defamation suit in a court in Ahmedabad. The hearing has been listed for 26th October.
Heavy-Handed Attempt by Ambani to Suppress Facts: NDTV
In a statement, NDTV said that it “will argue that the charges of defamation are nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt by Anil Ambani’s group to suppress the facts and prevent the media from doing its job – asking questions about a defence deal and seeking answers that are very much in public interest.”
“The lawsuit is filed against NDTV’s weekly show, Truth vs Hype, which aired on September 29. Top executives of Reliance ignored repeated, multiple and written requests to appear on the show or comment on what is being widely discussed not just in India but in France as well – whether Anil Ambani’s Reliance was transparently chosen as the partner for Dassault in a deal that saw India buying 36 fighter jets.”
“Remember that just days before this show aired, the role of Reliance appeared to have been questioned by none other than Francois Hollande, who was the president of France when the deal was struck. The NDTV show reported all sides of the story including Dassault’s denial that it had been under any pressure to select Reliance. The panellists, in a balanced discussion, examined whether issues like Reliance’s vast debt and record in defence manufacturing made it a suitable choice for Dassault in India.”
“As the Rafale deal has become a larger news story in India, the Reliance group has been on a notice-serving spree; to sue a news company for 10,000 crores in a court in Gujarat on false and frivolous charges, ignoring facts that are widely reported everywhere and not just by NDTV, can only be interpreted as an unsophisticated warning to the media to stop doing its job,” said NDTV.
“NDTV outright rejects any charges of defamation and will present material in court to support its case. As a news organisation, we are committed to independent and fair journalism that uncovers the truth.”
In June last year, CBI had conducted raids at the residence of NDTV’s founders and executive co-chairpersons Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy.
The central government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also ordered to impose a one-day ban on the channel. However, after massive media protests, the ban order was withdrawn.
— With Inputs From IANS