By Dhruv Shekhar
The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) raid on the 6th of June on the premises of Prannoy and Radhika Roy, former proprietors of NDTV, sparked outrage not just within India but all across the world. Sections of the media vehemently condemned the alleged and blatant misuse of power by the PMO, via the CBI, and criticised the raid as an attack on the freedom of the press in India. Furthermore, several international publications also espoused the cause and labelled the incident as among a line of attacks on the freedom of the press in the country.
To add insult to the injury, liberals and intellectuals viewed this incident as a part of the worrying trend of the government of clamping down on non-conformist media entities. However, in this entire storm, people failed to recognise that the rhetoric of ‘attack on the freedom of the press’ had not only been blatantly misused but also quite overused. One should consider the matter in this light as well.
Unmerited censure of CBI
The raid was carried out due to a complaint registered by a shareholder of the ICICI Bank and NDTV. A court of competent jurisdiction granted the CBI search warrants to allow it to conduct its inquiry. This was the procedure followed when the CBI conducted the raid on Prannoy Roy’s premises.
The charge of unlawful gains of Rs. 48 crores was made against the Roys alongside the holding company called M/s RRPR Holdings Pvt. Ltd. It was further based on a claim by the ICICI that it had suffered a loss because of the unlawful holdings. The matter was deemed a collusion and criminal conspiracy under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1964, authorises the CBI to investigate any offence that violates the Prevention of Corruption Act, given the prior approval of the Central Government. Furthermore, the 2016 Supreme Court judgement (Ramesh Gelli v. CBI [WP (CRL.) NO. 167/ 2015]) legislated the extension of the provisions of the 1988 Act to officials of private banks as well. All this implies that the CBI’s investigation fell under the proper jurisdiction and also followed the lawful procedure.
Overplayed rhetoric can injure media
What this leaves us with is a case of an alleged unscrupulous financial dealing being veiled as an attack on the freedom of the press. NDTV might have a big name among the media houses, but it is subject to the same laws and regulations as other private media enterprises. At the end of the day, it has to comply with all lawful investigations and uphold the law of the country.
There is no denying that there have been several instances of ‘attacks on the voice of the people’ in the country. The recent cases of the shutdown of internet access in states like Jammu and Kashmir and Meghalaya fall within this bracket. However, lawful inquisitions cannot be clubbed with these instances. Procedures have to be followed when the need arises, in order to maintain the veracity of actual instances of unlawful interference and to sustain the true character and pride of the fourth estate, that is the media.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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