Zee News Editor Sudhir Chaudhary's response to BEA's decision
October 18, 2012 (6.45pm)
Mr Shazi Zaman
Broadcast Editor’s Association (BEA)
Sub: Your letter (via email) today informing me of my removal from the membership of the BEA is a premeditated and prejudicial pronouncement by Ethics Committee in violation of natural justice causing prejudice to me.
Respectfully, I write this letter to you in anguish and pain at the disregard the BEA and the Ethics Committee (Committee) has shown for justice and fairness to fellow Editors in adjudicating on a canard sought to be spread by Naveen Jindal, MP.
The BEA/Committee has chosen, perhaps advertently, to ignore my repeated submissions in black and white and denied me representation and an opportunity to safeguard my Constitutional Rights in a criminal complaint pending against me and Samir Ahluwalia. Instead, BEA/Committee has relied on the false, malicious, and distractive propaganda unleashed by Naveen Jindal against me and Samir Ahluwalia and caused deep prejudice to both of us.
Given the unprecedented and over-reaching mandate trusted in your hands as a self-regulatory body for individual broadcast editors in their personal capacity, this is to place on the record that the BEA/Committee has fallen prey to the distractive machinations of the prime accused in the “Coalgate scam,” now recognized as the biggest abuse of natural resources in the history of the country.
Sadly, the pronouncement is a result of infancy of systems at BEA/Committee and the association’s inability to manage a handful of eager-beaver agendas, including, but not limited to, those of Editors on the Committee who I have removed from appearing on my channel.
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 despite the clear forewarning and Constitutional position on the subject shared with you vide letter on October 17, 2012.
The BEA has come into being as a self-appointed self regulatory body with an avowed objective of not succumbing to external powers. The BEA/Committee mandate therefore should have been to examine the journalistic process in the ever-changing milieu of the way the government conducts its business and the way business sometimes works hand-in-glove with the government. The BEA/Committee therefore had to rise above amateurish notions that can be created upon the first-glance of concocted evidence especially when this involves exposing the high and mighty as was the case in the Naveen Jindal episode. This didn’t happen and the evidence wasn’t shared with me and Samir Ahluwalia.
It is in pursuit of larger good that means justify the end. At a time when the mainline media, including channels of Editors on the Committee, had fallen silent on India’s biggest ever scam, attempts by media houses like Zee to bring out the final truth is being muzzled and I am sad to say BEA has chosen to side with the mighty and powerful.
As regards your failure to stick to the process of fairness and due diligence in your suo motu probe, I wish to place again before you my repeated submissions for a fair hearing which the Committee repeatedly denied me and Samir Ahluwalia:
1. Denial of nomination even as BEA Ethics Committee allowed Naveen Jindal the facility: Please refer my letter dated October 16 to you seeking the nomination facility as per the norm of parity. This opportunity was denied to me.
2. Denial for one-on-one hearing and cross-examination with Naveen Jindal: This was sought in a communication addressed to you on 16th October but again the opportunity was denied while I was called for personal hearing again on October 17.
3. Deliberate attempt to tarnish my image by leaking details of Ethics Committee proceedings initiating a trial by media: I brought this out in details in my letter on October 16th since a section of the press carried detailed stories on Jindal’s hearing at your end quoting “sources” in the probe committee.
4. Deliberate attempt to prejudice my legal defense: The BEA did not take cognizance of my plea dated October 17 which requested that the proceedings undertaken by you would deserve to be kept in abeyance till such time the investigation in the false allegations made by Naveen Jindal are investigated by the police and we are not prejudiced in any manner by being compelled to share and disclose all such true details and relevant facts in an exercise which is in public domain and as such, any disclosure would not be permissible in law.
5. Denial of my right to see the evidence presented by Naveen Jindal via his nominees.
6. Pressure tactics of summoning me for hearings at a short notice even on the precise dates and timings I was to depose before police authorities as also not being given due notice to participate and talk to the Governing Body including the one conducted today (October 18): Please refer to my communication addressed to you today morning expressing my inability to heed to your request to attend the emergency meeting convened this morning given that there has been insufficient notice given to me.
7. An unseemly hurry to wind up the proceedings well before 15 days enshrined as the suggested time frame at the initial stages.
In view of the above, I fear that the move to pick up the Naveen Jindal case suo motu may have been inspired by the ulterior motive to tarnish me and my colleague Samir Ahluwalia. I chose all along to cooperate in the interest of bringing out the truth and my own commitment to self-regulation, given the fact that I had played my own part in the creation of BEA. Your letter today removing me from the membership has unfortunately confirmed my worst apprehensions. I would like the BEA/Committee to correct the wrong done to me on the above counts. As expressed in my letter of October 18, 2012, Samir Ahluwalia and I request a personal hearing before a Review Committee and the Governing Body and to be allowed appropriate hearing.