NDTV founders detained at Mumbai airport; Roys say fake case
Mumbai, Aug 9: News television network NDTV's founders Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika, facing an alleged corruption case, were prevented from flying abroad on Friday on the basis of a "preventive" lookout circular (LOC) issued by the CBI.
In a statement, the media company said Roy and his wife were stopped from travelling abroad on the basis of "a fake and wholly unsubstantiated corruption case initiated by the CBI" two years ago.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials in New Delhi said a "preventive" LOC was issued against the duo in June in connection with an alleged fraud in relation to ICICI Bank. They were stopped from leaving the country on the basis of the LOC, they added. A preventive LOC is aimed at stopping a person from leaving the country but does not warrant detention by authorities. The said LOC was only to prevent the duo from leaving the country, not to detain them, the officials said. Roy and his wife were on their way to an undisclosed destination and were scheduled to return on August 16, NDTV said.
"Today's action is, along with events like raids on media owners, a warning to the media to fall in line- or else," the company said, hinting at intimidation. This was "a complete subversion of basic rights", it added. The statement also described the two founders of the media network as "journalists" but did not specify the reasons for their travel. The action comes months after Naresh Goyal, the promoter of bankrupt carrier Jet Airways, was stopped from flying abroad from the city airport after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) registered a money-laundering case against him.
The development comes more than two years after the premises of the Roys were searched by the CBI in connection with the alleged bank fraud case.
After lodging an FIR on June 2, 2017, the CBI, in a statement, had said it was not probing loan default but alleged violations of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) rules, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) guidelines and reduction in the rate of interest by ICICI Bank, which caused a loss of Rs 48 crore to it.
The case pertained to a loan, which was already re-paid by NDTV in 2009, and there was no complaint from the bank, the company had said. The news network, which is credited with pioneering television news in the country, had then called the action a "witch hunt".
"We will not succumb to these attempts to blatantly undermine democracy and free speech," NDTV had said in a statement then.
The Editors Guild of India had also expressed its concern in the matter. The CBI had registered an FIR on the basis of a complaint filed by a shareholder of NDTV and ICICI Bank.
The central agency's move to proceed against NDTV without conducting a preliminary enquiry was criticised by the media fraternity as an attempt to muzzle the press.
The agency got its powers to register cases against private banks after the Supreme Court order in the Global Trust Bank case in 2016, which said executives of private banks were covered under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the CBI had said.