Court asks Jindal for Zee ‘sting’ tapes, transcripts

Bombay High Court Tuesday asked Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) to produce audio and video recordings and transcripts of meetings between journalists from Zee News Ltd and JSPL executives to prove allegations of blackmailing and extortion by the channel.

The court, however, observed, "There is much to be said about both sides (JSPL and Zee News)."

Last week, Naveen Jindal-led JSPL filed a Rs 200 crore defamation suit against Zee News, alleging a smear campaign "out of sheer malice, malafide intention and to defame Jindal Steel and Power Ltd without verifying correctness of the facts..."

JSPL had claimed that Zee's editor-business heads had demanded Rs 100 crore to stop targeting the steel major. Zee News had wrongly aired that 25 per cent of coal blocks were allotted to the company without an auction, JSPL alleged. JSPL counsel R A Dada said that 25 per cent was factually incorrect, and that the allocation was made to a joint venture of separate entities and not to JSPL alone.

After hearing the arguments, Justice SJ Kathawalla told Zee News, "Whenever there is an answer from them (JSPL), you have to show it." Zee News has been asked to forward its queries pertaining to coal block allocations to JSPL by October 31. JSPL has been asked to respond to these by November 2.

The court, however, questioned JSPL over its failure to present the recordings and transcripts of meetings between Zee representatives and its executives. "Do you have a transcript? Why is that not before the court? You say they are blackmailing and extorting," Justice Kathawalla said.

The court also asked if JSPL had produced the recordings before the police while filing an FIR on October 2. "What is the material you produced before the Broadcast Editors' Association? Have you given them the recording?" the court inquired. "We are testing your case now. These are very serious allegations. The moment you show me prima facie case of extortion, where is the question of (Zee's) justification? It will take a backseat," Justice S J Kathawalla said.

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