The Essar Controversy: Senior Journalists Of Hindustan Times & Times Now Resigned
The Essar tape
Essar group was allegedly involved in tapping the phone conversations of many individuals, politicians, businessmen and many other prominent personalities. They had allegedly tapped the phone conversations to get first-hand note policy decisions among others. The tapping of phones is believed to be done to overhear conversations about how businessmen reach out to politicians for favors In response to this the government has sought a legal opinion on how this issue can be handled.
A brief about ESSAR
It is an Indian multinational conglomerate who have investments in steel, energy, manufacturing, services and retail. Shashi Ruia and Ravi Ruia are the chairman and vice chairman respectively.
TIMES NOW, Hindustan Times and many others force resignations
Two senior journalists whose names were mentioned in the complaint resigned on Friday and a third one was put on notice by her organization. Sandeep Bamzai of Mail Today and Anupama Airy of Hindustan Times were two Editors who were forced to resign after serious allegations were made against them. Meetu Jain of Times Now is under investigation for having asked Essar for a car in the name of local use while being employed at CNN-IBN news channel in 2012.
Hindustan Times Editor-in-Chief Sanjoy Narayan said: “Prima facie the accusation is a serious violation of basic ethical standards, and of the trust that our readers place in us. We, therefore, had no choice but to suspend Ms. Airy with immediate effect, pending an inquiry into her conduct. She has chosen to resign rather than participate in the process. Her resignation has been accepted.”
Tapping of phones for over a decade
Soaked in controversy, the Essar Group finds itself cornered in the alleged nexus of top-level officials-politicians, bureaucrats, and journalists. A year ago when the nightmare began, emails containing the draft budget proposals (documents of 2012 and 2013) had surfaced thereby incriminating those in possession of this confidential material. Denials from officials abounded as they made statements implying that the documents were in the public domain. The Supreme Court’s involvement began with a PIL filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a non-profit organization, with Mr. Prashant Bhushan at the forefront. The lawyer has alleged in a complaint to the Prime Minister that between the years 2001 and 2006 several phones of cabinet ministers, corporate leaders, and PMO staff of Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been tapped by the group.
Other noticeable personalities
Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, Praful Patel, Ram Naik, Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal and Amitabh Bachchan were amongst the list of big names that were under the scanner of the Essar group. The evidence in support of the illegal interception by Essar includes handwritten diaries and time logs.
Who is Basit Khan?
Albasit Khan, a former head of security at Essar who is now a whistleblower, seems to have been the supervisor of this secretive surveillance activity. He was formerly employed in UAE and he is known to be an expert in high-end security, a primary reason for which he was allegedly recruited by Essar. Ravikant Ruja had allegedly told Albasit Khan that the company was a telecom licensee for cellular operations under M/s Hutchinson Essar and is hence obligated to serve the government in their investigations through intercepting and tapping phones. Basit Khan was eventually fired by Essar in 2011, an action which irked Basit Khan as he claims the entire phone tapping was done at the behest of their employers as the tapping were done from, According to Outlook, from the ground floor and basement of Essar House in Mumbai and the guest house in Delhi.
The audio cassettes used for surveillance contain series of conversations of strategic importance. Allegations are pouring over numerous corporate and bureaucratic leaders of the country with reference to the interceptions that have surfaced. We hope the Supreme Court resolves the case soon and bring all parties involved to justice. The Essar Group has refuted the claims of Uppal, while the Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Group has sought full probe into the matter.