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Odisha: Journalist arrested over fraud charges

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Bhubaneswar, Jun 30: Ardhendu Das, a prominent television journalist from Odisha, has been arrested by the police's Economic Offences Wing over a dispute related to delayed payment to an equipment vendor who the scribe claimed had supplied sub-standard hardware, much of which had been returned.

Das alleged the action by the state police was a bid to "suppress" his voice. EOW officials picked up Das from his relative's house at Odagaon in Nayagarh district on Wednesday night. While being taken for a health checkup after his arrest, Das said, "The action against me is intended to suppress my voice against the state government's misdeeds.

Odisha: Journalist arrested over fraud charges

It's a vindictive action. I had told the EOW that I would appear before it on July 1. It was finalised that the pending amount of the deal with the company concerned would be paid through cheque. The EOW and the firm are aware of this. Despite this, I was picked up."

The EOW had on June 28 raided the house of Das on the basis of an FIR registered by a Delhi-based businessman. He was accused of not paying back Rs 92.47 lakh to the businessman, who had supplied equipment for the television channel. Das was, however, not present at the house during the raid even as the EOW had served him notice twice asking him to depose before it.

He hadn't appeared before the EOW. The businessman from the national capital, Gagandeep Singh Chawla, proprietor of Solution Broadcast company, had alleged that Das had contacted him in 2020 for buying equipment for the establishment of the news channel. A deal worth Rs 1 crore was finalised. Though Das had paid Chawla Rs 10 lakh in advance for the equipment, he did not pay the remaining amount within six months as agreed earlier.

The businessman filed a case against Das after 20 months, police said. EOW had on June 23 registered a case and started an investigation. Das, however, rejected the businessman's charges, counter-alleging that he was supplied with sub-standard equipment unusable for broadcast, and that most of the expensive hardware and software provided by Chawla have been returned.

In a separate case, a complaint was filed against Das at Purighat Police Station in Cuttack by businessman Nisit Agrawal. The trader has alleged that Das purchased furniture and other articles worth Rs 11 lakh from him but paid only Rs 4.4 lakh while promising to pay the rest later.

However, Das was yet to pay the dues. Senior advocate Soura Chandra Mohapatra, however, opined that Das's arrest was not justified. "He was arrested over some alleged irregularities in a commercial transaction by two individual parties. The EOW should not have intervened in the matter. The company concerned should have lodged a complaint with the police rather than EOW as it does not deal with cases worth below Rs 1 crore.

There is no criminal aspect in this transaction. Hence, the company concerned should have moved to the civil court to get back its payment," Mohapatra said.

PTI

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