Officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday raided the residence of senior journalist and co-founder of listed broadcaster New Delhi Television (NDTV) Prannoy Roy and other premises linked to the organisation.
The investigation agency has registered a case against Roy, his wife and NDTV co-promoter Radhika Roy, their private firm RRPR Holdings and NDTV India. The First Information Report (FIR) also mentions “unnamed ICICI Bank officials” among the suspects.
The FIR, which has alleged criminal conspiracy and invoked Prevention of Corruption Act, was based on a complaint by Quantum Securities, a firm run by Delhi-based stockbroker and NDTV shareholder Sanjay Dutt. Dutt, who once shared a close relationship with the Roys, had lodged several complaints against NDTV and its promoters with various agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Board of India and the income tax department.
In the latest complaint, dated April 28, Quantum alleged “pecuniary loss of over Rs 48 crore to ICICI Bank arising out of unlawful/undue favour and profit transferred to promoters of New Delhi Television— being Dr Prannoy Roy, Radhika Roy and RRPR Holding.” The complaint added that “ICICI Bank allegedly conniving, committing fraud and entering into a conspiracy with promoters of NDTV to facilitate transfer of ownership of a news broadcasting company to a khoka/shell company.”
Shares of NDTV tanked nearly 7 per cent intra-day. The stock plunged 6.74 per cent to Rs 58.10, a 52-week low, on the BSE during the day. Later, it trimmed some of the losses and ended at Rs 60.45, down 2.97 per cent.
NDTV said it would fight the “witch-hunt”. It called the CBI action an attempt to undermine democracy.
Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said there was no political interference in the CBI raids on NDTV founder Prannoy Roy's properties. He said the law was taking its course. "If somebody does something wrong, simply because they belong to media, you cannot expect the government to keep quiet," Naidu told reporters.
On Thursday evening, NDTV’s senior anchor Nidhi Razdan had asked BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra to leave a debate mid-way after he alleged the channel was biased. The video of the interaction went viral.
Swaraj Abhiyan leader and prominent lawyer Prashant Bhushan said this was the immediate trigger for the CBI action. “Raids on NDTV take place three days after a BJP spokesman is asked to leave Razdan's show. The message is clear. Govt intimidating the media. Others who have swallowed lakhs of crores from public sector banks are cronies of the govt. Can't you see diff between a crony & Indep media?” he tweeted.