Journalist Rohini Singh, who investigated into the alleged irregularities in business enterprises run by Jay Amitbhai Shah, BJP President Amit Shah's son, for The Wire, has stood up for herself after being slapped with a defamation case. In a Facebook post, she made her stance clear, explaining that her job as a journalist is to speak to truth to power and she wouldn't desist from it.
According to reports, Jay Shah has sued the independent news portal for Rs 100 crores, after the latter ran a story outlining alleged financial irregularities involved in his business transactions.
Based on filings available with the Registrar of Companies, Singh reported that Temple Enterprise Private Ltd, a company of which Jay is director, increased its turnover by a staggering 16,000 times since the BJP-led government at the Centre came to power under the prime ministership of Narendra Modi. Jay's father is a close associate of the PM and a leading light of the BJP.
From Rs 15,000 in 2014-15 to Rs 80.5 crore in 2015-16, the rise in revenue for Temple Enterprise has been wondrous, bolstered by an unsecured loan of Rs 15.78 crore from Rajesh Khandwala, a relative of Rajya Sabha member Parimal Nathwani, who is also a senior executive at Reliance Industries.
The Wire's findings have led to speculations whether such deals were struck between the various parties with the collusion of politicians, business leaders and elected lawmakers.
However, Jay said the report had made "false, derogatory and defamatory imputation against me by creating in the mind of right-thinking people an impression that my business owes its 'success' to my father's political position."
According to The Indian Express, he claimed his businesses are "fully legitimate and conducted in a lawful manner on commercial lines" reflected in his tax records and through banking transactions.
"I have repaid the loans by cheque on commercial rate of interest and within the time stipulated. I have mortgaged my family property with the cooperative bank to get the credit facilities," he said to quash all the allegations raised against his dealings by Singh.
Even before the publication of the article in The Wire, Jay's lawyer had already warned Singh, or any other media organisation, to not broadcast any potentially defamatory comments about his client.
"If you or anyone in the print, electronic or digital media carries and/or broadcasts any defamatory and/or false imputations including those which breach his fundamental right of privacy and/or defame him, Mr. Jay Shah reserves the right to prosecute and sue such person/entity including anyone who carries or broadcasts a repetition of such libelous/defamatory statement," the lawyer's response read.
Singh, who was previously employed with The Economic Times, is a well-known business journalist. Along with Sruthijith KK*, she exposed Congress President Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra's involvement with DLF's real estate business in an ET investigation in 2011.
Following the publication of her story on Jay, members of political parties from across the spectrum have reacted to it with expected pique.
"Today, we want to ask our Prime Minister, what do you have to say about crony capitalism now? Will you direct the CBI to probe? Will you direct the ED to probe? Will you ask them to arrest them? Because in the case of opposition, the ED immediately sends notice and shows speed in arresting them... But if somebody's name is Jay, Amit and Shah, who can arrest them? I can confidently tell you that the Prime Minister will remain silent," said Kapil Sibal of the Congress.
CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) both added their voices to the clamour. AAP said it as a "classic case of money laundering", while Yechury asserted that "very clearly, the son (of Amit Shah) has misused this government in order to accumulate riches in a very clandestine fashion..."
Railway minister Piyush Goyal and member of BJP strongly defended Jay, saying there was no irregularity in his operations and Singh's article is without completely substance. The army of supporters of the right-wing party on social media also chimed in with their support.
In the meantime, top government lawyer Tushar Mehta told NDTV that he may take up Jay's case against The Wire.
(*Disclosure: Sruthijith KK is the former Editor-in-Chief of HuffPost India)
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