(Please read the comments dt. 27.06.2017, 29.06.2017, 06.11.2017 and 01.02.2018 at the bottom.)
Published on 06.06.2017
Over the years, I have grown cynical esp. when it comes to the BJP. They pursue completely frivolous matters with such diligence that the matters start looking serious. The current raid on NDTV’s promoters is also the same. Yes, indeed it is the result of Nidhi Razdan & Sambit Patra spat.
When I first woke up in the morning yesterday — which in my case gets extended to noon — and opened a few news websites, hashtag NDTV struck on the face. The NDTV website called the raid on NDTV’s promoters as witch-hunt. I immediately tweeted it with the hashtag #FreeSpeech mentioning the Nidhi Razdan & Sambit Patra spat. Of course, it was very cynical. I had not even read the news story by then. But how correct I was.
Later during the day, I wrote a post, which I withdrew because it was based on misreading of facts. Now I find Quint has uploaded the complaint filed in the case, on which the action has been taken on 02.06.2017. I repeat 02.06.2017; i.e., a day after the Nidhi Razdan & Sambit Patra spat. Incredible but true! Below is the screen shot. This means the action on the complaint filed by the complainant Sanjay Dutt, the Director of Quantum Securities, was taken just a day after the Nidhi Razdan & Sambit Patra spat.
I have no doubt CBI is witch hunting, and this I say very responsibly after reading the FIR. The main grievance of the complainant is actually against ICICI. His prayers also specifically name ICICI. Basically, what he is saying is that ICICI, by settling the loan with NDTV with Rs 48 cr loss, has actually caused loss to itself, which is a fraudulent conduct. CBI, on the basis of an earlier Supreme Court judgment in Global Trust Bank case, is treating it as an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act because the Supreme Court in the earlier judgment has held that senior executives of private banks are deemed public servants; so, the PC Act becomes applicable to them. Ironically, the CBI has not yet identified the ICICI officials but has raided the NDTV promoters, who, if at all, had a marginal role to play.
Let me explain what happened. It is well-known that NDTV faced serious financial crunch around 2008 when it took loans from various entities. First it took loan from India Bulls, for repaying which it took loan from ICICI bank pledging all shareholdings of the NDTV promoters to ICICI, which comes to around 61%. This, as per the complaint, is against the banking regulations, which say a bank should not control more than 30% share in an entity it lends, whether by way of pledged collateral or direct control. Thus ICICI was not doing any favours to NDTV. It was in fact taking over control of NDTV. So, this part of the complaint is also basically against ICICI only, but the complainant also claims that NDTV didn’t disclose the fact of pledging to SEBI, MIB, MHA, etc, which he says was not done to ensure ICICI doesn’t face any problem. So, basically, NDTV, according to the complainant, is a co-conspirator, who allowed ICICI to take ownership control over itself illegally.
The saga doesn’t end here. According to the complainant, the very next year, NDTV did pay 99% of the loan amount to ICICI thus taking ICICI out, but the repayment was actually funded by Reliance by a zero coupon convertible loan through a series of shell companies. This tantamount to Money Laundering, and it seems ED is filing separate cases to investigate it. But beware, going by today’s precedent, the wrath will fall once again on NDTV promoters only, not on Reliance.
So, the conclusion is that Reliance has taken ownership control of NDTV, with which I also agree. But does this also tantamount to editorial control? This is where lies the crux of the matter. If one would listen to Nidhi Razdan & Sambit Patra spat, one would find that Nidhi Razdan claimed LRC to be her show and asked Sambit Patra to leave. At which, Sambit Patra retorted challenging Nidhi Razdan’s claim over LRC. Basically, what he impliedly meant was that NDTV is controlled by Reliance, and LRC was hardly her show. He was transferring not only ownership but also editorial control to Reliance and by extension to himself. Of course, he failed. But, the way the BJP government is, they are now playing these dirty tricks.
(In past, I have condemned Nidhi Razdan for over-reaching herself and have also written some pretty nasty things against her, but this time she didn’t over-reach at all. Her conduct was pretty appreciable. And this I am saying after she has blocked me twice on FB.)
If one were to take a bird eye view of the scenario, NDTV promoters are minor players. The major players are Reliance and ICICI, who probably conspired to take control over NDTV and pretty successfully too. They are the real criminals, who are beyond the reach of CBI, but minor players like NDTV promoters are being targeted, of course as a revenge against what Nidhi Razdan did.
I, however, need to clearly state here that the complaint filed by Sanjay Dutt is not frivolous. He has raised very important issue of how corporates and banks are conspiring to guzzle up media. He might have some grudge against NDTV, but his complaint is balanced as I have already stated his main relief is against ICICI. But why CBI has targeted NDTV promoters is for CBI to answer. When you have not even identified co-conspirators; i.e., officials of ICICI bank and Reliance, how have you assumed a conspiracy?
Give it a thought: will Modi ever allow CBI to raid Ambani or ICICI? What a cynical move for such a frivolous cause. The BJP has fallen to its nadir now. You bloody conduct raids through an agency no less than CBI because your unrestrained spokesperson just doesn’t know how to behave and you just don’t know how to restrain him! This government has made everything too cynical. Thanks goodness I stopped watching news debates. But I wonder how long can you claim ignorance as bliss! At least, I am not feeling happy writing this post!
P.S. I think it is necessary to mention that “nasty things” referred above in relation to Nidhi Razdan were said by me in my blogs only, not in either any direct message to Nidhi Razdan or in any one-to-one communication with any third party — I have never had any one-to-one communication with Nidhi Razdan. Those blog posts were subsequently withdrawn because I found them in bad taste. However, I am making them public again for the purpose of full disclosure. You can navigate through them via this anchor post: Nidhi Razdan Is the Gajendra Chauhan of TV Anchoring
Comment Dt. 11.06.2017
Well…let me state clearly what I made out from the complaint filed by Sanjay Dutt. I think he made an allegation that Reliance in consort with ICICI has illegally acquired NDTV making a loss of Rs 48 cr to ICICI’s shareholders at the cost of Roys and NDTV, and therefore Roys and NDTV are part of the conspiracy. I also interpret the loan agreement as a kind of ownership transfer only. Reliance has been given option of converting its loan into shares at par value to the maximum holding of 26%, which is a substantial stake, and also it has been given the power to nominate one director out of the three in the ICICI Board. But, I think, the alleged Rs 48 cr loss to ICICI’s shareholders was actually not a gain to Roys and NDTV but to Reliance as it was the one who was controlling the transfer. To me, the interest free personal loan (not the Zero Coupon Convertible Loan to NDTV) extended to Roys was part of the deal as a kind of small compensation for exit in a distress sale. It is possible NDTV might have been given editorial control and also an opportunity to buy back ownership by paying back the Zero Coupon Convertible Loan. I have no information what part, if any, of the loan has been paid back or has been converted into equity, but it doesn’t look like they would have been able to pay anything. But what I am surprised at is why Roys instead of cursing Reliance and ICICI are cursing Sanjay Dutt. Irrespective of his motivation, his complaint is genuine. Why should ICICI take a loss unto itself when there was no occasion to do so? Reliance has very cleverly kept out itself by creating a labyrinth of transactions through shell companies, which has, ironically,ended up projecting Roys and NDTV as beneficiaries, who according to me were mere victims, albeit with poor financial and legal acumen. Just a parting note, I think CBI’s invocation of PCA Act in the case is erroneous and motivated. The SC judgment has been rendered in 2016, the alleged offences took place in 2009. How is CBI applying the judgement retrospectively in a criminal matter? Nevertheless, S. 420 may be made out as ICICI did seem to cheat its shareholders. S. 120 B may also be made out but against Reliance more and Roys and NDTV less. However, my question still remains: Why did CBI target Roys and NDTV when bigger fishes, Reliance and ICICI, just can’t be caught, which they also know pretty well. CBI: Are you conducting raids in ICICI and Reliance offices anytime soon?
P.S. Please read “ICICI Board” in the line, “[A]so it has been given the power to nominate one director out of the three in the ICICI Board”, as RRPR Board. It’s a clerical error and is regretted. RRPR Holding is the borrower and, as per the loan agreement, was to acquire 26% of equity share in NDTV from the promoters, i.e. Roys, before drawing down loan amount from the Lender. Further, it is important to mention here that the maturity date of the loan agreement is around July 2019, whereafter only the lender should take over control. Also, it is important to mention that the agreement specifically states that the editorial control shall remain with NDTV. I just can’t stop to see this pressure on NDTV as some kind of tactics to obviate them from repaying the loan to the lender, which they can very well do by 2019. OK…I will have to give benefit of doubt to NDTV and read the loan agreement as it is to mean the ownership hasn’t got transferred to Reliance till now, and the extension of interest free personal loan to Roys was some favour in kind unrelated to the transfer of ownership — at the end of the day, I am a Finance MBA turned Lawyer and do understand Financial Engg.; I can’t be so cycnical; regrets! This interest free personal loan of Rs 93 cr was extended to Roys by RRPR in 2008 when they received loan from ICICI. But my assertion that the real beneficiary of Rs 48 cr loss to ICICI’s shareholders was Reliance remains intact as I am considering ICICI and Reliance as conspirators and am seeing the loan extended by ICICI to RRPR and its repayment through the loan received from Reliance through its shell companies as part of the same transaction micromanaged by Reliance.
Comment Dt. 27.06.2017
Subsequent to the making of the above comments dt. 11.06.2017, on 12.06.2017, I found that Nidhi Razdan was tweeting Sambit Patra yet again. The context was some alleged fake news in Times of Islamabad attributed to NDTV. Sambit Patra quoted the said news in a tweet, “Hmmm …Agenda!”, however without mentioning anybody from NDTV. This tweet was inconsequential and could have easily been ignored by NDTV — you don’t have to answer every baseless allegation against you, that too on Twitter. The fact NDTV not only didn’t ignore but also worked overtime right into the zero hour to get a Twitter apology from Times of Islamabad clearly shows Sambit Patra was being shown undue importance. Furthermore, in any case there was no occasion for Nidhi Razdan, who in her spat with Sambit Patra clearly stated that she found it “beneath her” to argue with Sambit Patra, to mention Sambit Patra in her tweet (screenshot below). The only conclusion I can make out of this is that NDTV was either trying to settle this matter with the BJP by showing undue importance to Sambit Patra or the spat itself was a drama for TRPs. I quoted the above tweet of Nidhi Razdan mentioning Sambit Patra and declared that until Nidhi Razdan either publicly apologizes for tweeting Sambit Patra after all that happened in the spat or admits that all that was a drama for TRPs, I shall boycott NDTV (screenshot below). Two weeks have passed since then, but neither is there any apology from Nidhi Razdan nor is there any admission. Therefore, I have blocked both NDTV and Nidhi Razdan on Twitter, unsubscribed NDTV from YouTube, and uninstalled NDTV app from my mobile and tablet in pursuance of the boycott. I urge the readers to do the same as the filthy compromise NDTV was trying to enter into or has already entered into with the BJP is betrayal to all those who supported them. An apology is the minimum. However, if NDTV or Nidhi Razdan would admit it was a drama for TRPs, I will end my boycott because a little more cynicism is fine with me; however, no advice either way to the readers on this.
Comment Dt. 29.06.2017
Well…let me clarify that my main objection is to NDTV. I blocked Nidhi Razdan only because in her profile she mentions that her views on Twitter are personal, which doesn’t look like to be so in this particular case because I don’t think she is so fragile as to reply uninvited to the tweet of the same person whom she fought with a few days back on nothing less than a National TV. But now I see she is coming out with her new book. Well…then it could well have been a personal tactic of Nidhi Razdan to garner eyeballs, which backfired engulfing the whole of NDTV, but I admit this thinking is too far-fetched sans logical linking of events. In any case, I ought not to have blocked both NDTV and Nidhi Razdan as only one of them can be guilty unless she is so big in NDTV as to plan strategies in tandem with other biggies like Prannoy Roy. I might not have blocked Nidhi Razdan if she had not blocked me on FB in the past. So, there is a slight personal bias in the above advice; you may please ignore my advice wrt Nidhi Razdan; rest all remains the same.
P.S. Nidhi Razdan has been unblocked.
Comments Dt. 06.11.17
I have learned certain non-disclosable facts, which have created a strong doubt in my mind that Nidhi Razdan’s tweet mentioning Sambit Patra was of her own volition and also that the compromise with BJP was being entered into or has been entered into solely for her with her full knowledge and approval sans any force or compulsion. Therefore, I am blocking her again on Twitter till my doubt is proved wrong. Generally, I don’t give benefit of doubt to myself, but since Nidhi Razdan has blocked me twice on FB for no discernible reason, I am making this exception without any advice to the readers.
P.S. NDTV will remain boycotted till at least one of these things happens:
1. Nidhi Razdan publicly apologizes for mentioning Sambit Patra in her tweet.
2. Nidhi Razdan quits NDTV or is dismissed from NDTV (highly unlikely).
3. Nidhi Razdan is barred from doing any anchoring job whatsoever on NDTV (highly unlikely).
4. My doubt is proved wrong and therefore NDTV tenders a public apology for entering into or attempting to enter into a compromise with BJP.
Comment dt. 01.02.2018
Well…I am revoking the boycott of NDTV but am retaining the boycott of Nidhi Razdan mainly because she is dispensable. Now two news anchors are being boycotted by me: Nidhi Razdan and Arnab Goswami (He is being boycotted symbolically for tje mainstream corporate media as he is the most popular English news anchor in India. This boycott was triggered by the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. Any news anchor becoming more popular will replace him).
The reason for revoking the boycott of NDTV is simple and straight forward: I have an unconfirmed doubt that all this drama was played by Nidhi Razdan as a cynical marketing tactic for her book, and NDTV was a passive abettor. I don’t have any reliable evidence to confirm my doubt, but I have already stated the reason for giving benefit of doubt to myself. I am revoking the boycott of NDTV only because this cynicism is inescapable. I don’t know when I myself will have to ride this cynicism wave, so swimming in it is a better option. Anyways, what’s the point blocking a news channel when I have not stopped watching movies irrespective of the highly cynical marketing associated with them viz. Padmaavat.
© 2017-18 Ankur Mutreja