Delhi High Court issues notice to 5 TV news channels over reporting of Delhi Excise Policy case

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The Delhi High Court on Monday issued notice to Republic TV, India Today, Zee News and Times Now over their alleged misreporting about the ongoing investigation and trial in Delhi Excise Policy case in which Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders are accused.

The Court also directed the News broadcasting and Digital Standards Authority (NBDSA) to examine the news reports carried by these channels and inform the Court whether the broadcast were compliant with their guidelines or not.

The Court also directed the news channels to ensure that all reports carried by them on the ongoing investigation in Delhi Excise Policy case are based only on the “official communications” issued by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED).

The order passed by single-judge Justice Yashwant Varma would effectively mean that these news channels will not be able to report source based stories regarding the case.

A direction was also passed to the channels to adhere to the guidelines that govern their broadcast.

The order was passed on a plea by APP communications in-charge Vijay Nair alleging that sensitive information regarding his case was leaked by the ED and the CBI to the media, thereby, prejudicing his rights as an accused.

In his plea, Nair referred to several instances when the channels report what questions were asked of him and what his answers were.

In one instance, which was pointed out in court, the news report even revealed what was the first question that that was posed to him.

Last week, the High Court had ordered CBI and the ED to furnish all public statements and press communications issued by them to media in relation to their investigation in Delhi government’s excise policy.

Today, while the ED said that it has not issued any press release, CBI said that it has issued three communications regarding the investigation.

However, both the agencies said that broadcast referred to by Nair in his petition were not based on any information provided by them.

After reading the communications issued by CBI, the judge noted that there was simply no correlation between what the news broadcast and the information provided by the agencies.

Therefore, the court passed the order also impleading News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA).

NBDSA is the association of private television news, current affairs and digital broadcasters.

During the course of hearing, Justice Varma also expressed his displeasure over the submission made by counsel appearing for the NBDSA that the association does not have the power to restrain the channels.

“If self-regulation is mere eyewash then why should we not be disband you,” the Court asked.

The court added that the what news channels publish has to be in tune with the disclosures made by the CBI and ED or it could be something that is reflected in order of the court.

The matter will now be heard in February.

Vijay Nair, former CEO of Only Much Louder, was arrested and remanded to 5 days CBI custody on September 27 in connection with alleged irregularities in Delhi Excise Policy case.

The First Information Report (FIR) was lodged after Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22, putting Manish Sisodia, the in-charge of the excise department, in the line of fire.

On Nair’s role, the FIR stated that reliable sources revealed that he and three others were actively involved in irregularities in framing and implementation of excise policy.

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