Thursday, June 27, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

CBI raids Tehelka premises
Hunt on for reporter in poaching case
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 26
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today conducted searches at the premises of the Tehelka news portal and the residence of one of its reporters, Kumar Badal, in connection with a case under the Wild Life Protection Act registered by the agency on June 3.

The searches, which coincided with the cross-examination of former Samata Party President Jaya Jaitley before the Justice Venkataswami Commission in the Tehelka expose case, were conducted at Badal’s Vasundhra Enclave residence in East Delhi and Tehelka’s office at Swami Nagar in South Delhi.

Badal, who was not present during the search operation, was declared absconding by the CBI and a lookout notice was issued.

However, denying its reporter Kumar Badal was “absconding”, Tehelka took exception to the CBI calling him an absconder and said he would join the investigations after he was served a notice.

Serving a notice to CBI Director P.C. Sharma, counsel for Tehelka, Sidhartha Luthra, said his client Kumar Badal had not been served any notice to appear before the CBI and join the investigation.

CBI spokesman S.M. Khan told newspersons that documents seized during raids from Badal’s residence revealed that he had been working under a fictitious name of “Pankaj”, whom two poachers, Inam and Meherban, arrested earlier, told CBI they had been working for.

The documents seized included papers pertaining to a mobile phone (9810290047), which was allegedly used by the two poachers to communicate with “Pankaj”, alias Kumar Badal, and an appointment letter of Badal from Tehelka, he said, adding that the phone was registered in the name of Buffalo Networks Pvt Ltd, the owner of Tehelka.

The CBI spokesman claimed that Badal, alias “Pankaj,” had given Rs 15,000 and a Sony video camera to the two poachers to film the poaching operation.

He further said the Maruti Esteem car, which was allegedly used by “Pankaj” to meet the two poachers in Shivalik forest, had also been traced. The blue-coloured car, registered in the name of Buffalo Networks Pvt Ltd, was sold to a resident of Lajpat Nagar on May 22, a day before the Uttar Pradesh police registered a case under the Wild Life Protection Act.

“Whether the sale of the car was just a coincidence or purposely done was a matter of investigation,” Mr Khan said, and claimed that the poachers, now in custody, had sent three video cassettes to Badal. The cassettes had not yet been recovered.

The initial case was registered by the Biharigarh police in Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh on May 23 and subsequently the case was transferred to the CBI, which re-registered the case on June 3.

The CBI, after re-registering the case, took the two poachers on a three-day remand on June 4 and they were brought to New Delhi for intensive interrogation.

The CBI case pertained to killing of three panthers recently at Biharigarh area of Shivalik division in Uttar Pradesh, after which the police arrested the two poachers and seized skins of three panthers, some deer horns, a country-made pistol and a video camera.

The case had been registered under Sections 9, 49, 49-A and 51 of the Wild Life Act, 1972, against the two and other unidentified persons.

Although the CBI maintained that the search operations were conducted only after thorough investigation, Tehelka officials contended that the raids were timed to prevent their Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal from deposing before the Venkataswami Commission, probing into the allegations of corruption in defence deals.

Reacting to the raids, Tarun Tejpal told newspersons that the timing of today’s raids was “clearly motivated as I was to be present at Justice Venkataswami Commission for the crucial cross-examination of Ms Jaitley.”

Mr Tejpal alleged that the government had been harassing him and his team of reporters since he had exposed corruption in high offices by carrying out a sting operation.

However, CBI spokesman strongly refuted these charges and said there was no restriction on Mr Tejpal attending the Venkataswami Commission deposition.

“He (Tejpal) is free and was free to go anywhere he wanted. But it was Tejpal, who on his own approached the CBI along with his lawyer. We did not need him,” Mr Khan said, adding that “the raid was limited only to the poaching case and no documents or papers pertaining to any other case was picked up by the CBI officials during the search operation.”

Tejpal had earlier stated that his news portal was trying to expose poaching. “But now, the case has been made out as if our reporter, who was investigating the affair, was himself a poacher.”



CBI moves Supreme Court in Bofors case

New Delhi, June 26
The CBI today filed an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the Delhi High Court verdict quashing the charge-sheet against the three Hinduja brothers in the Rs 64 crore Bofors pay-off case.

Stating that the high court erred by quashing the charge-sheet on the ground that the CBI had not taken clearance from the CVC prior to filing a charge-sheet against the accused, the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the agency sought setting aside of the June 10 order.

The agency maintained that the Supreme Court’s guideline in the Vineet Narain case did not specify that the CBI had to take Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) clearance before filing a charge-sheet for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Mr Justice R.S. Sodhi on June 10 quashed the charge-sheet against the three brothers — Srichand, Gopichand and Prakashchand — on the ground that the CBI had not taken the mandatory clearance from the CVC as per the guidelines of the apex court order in the case popularly known as the Jain-Hawala case. PTI


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