The BEA, a body of editors from leading TV news channels, had set up a three-member committee on October 10 to investigate allegations made by Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) against Zee News. The JSPL had lodged an FIR alleging extortion, intimidation and defamation by Zee News and its management.
The panel met representatives of JSPL chairman and Congress MP Navin Jindal over the last few days, and reviewed the alleged evidence presented by JSPL in support of its complaint to the police.
The panel, which examined audio and video recordings of conversations between JSPL representatives and Chaudhary and his colleague Samir Ahluwalia, submitted its report on Tuesday. The BEA members decided to remove Chaudhary after a secret ballot today.
A statement by BEA said: “The three-member fact-finding committee arrived at the... conclusion that Mr Sudhir Chaudhary is found to have acted in a manner that is unbecoming of an editor and in a fashion that is prejudicial to the interest and objects of the BEA.”
Chaudhary denied all charges. In a letter to BEA president Shazi Zaman, he imputed ulterior motives to some members of the committee, and accused them of not giving him proper opportunity to present his case.
Chaudhary argued that the committee should have waited for the police report, and asked BEA to “correct the wrong done” to him.
“The one-sided pronouncement is bad in law and unfair in the eyes of natural justice. It has not only sought to compromise my professional position, but also undermine my legal defence,” he said.
JSPL representatives have also filed a complaint with Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju, alleging that despite the registration of an FIR and its pending investigation, Zee and its associates “are continuing to spread misinformation amongst the journalists, media community, and the public at large on the issue”.
Along with the FIR, JSPL representatives submitted documents to Katju to claim that Zee’s representatives sought advertisements from JSPL not only for the news broadcaster but also sister company Diligent Media Corporation Ltd (DMCL) that publishes the English daily DNA from Mumbai.
Katju forwarded the complaint to News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) chairperson Justice J S Verma to investigate the matter. NBSA is a redressal body set up by news broadcasters to look into complaints against their members.