For Narada News editor and chief executive officer Mathew Samuel, the Calcutta high court order on Friday spells relief.
Samuel, who is admitted in hospital for an undisclosed surgery, told HT over phone that he expects some reprieve from an alleged witch-hunt by the Kolkata police that forced Narada news operations to shut down in Delhi last month.
Nearly one year and a few days after the news website Narada News published a sting operation online purportedly showing 11 ruling Trinamool Congress leaders accepting money, the high court ordered a CBI probe into the charges.
“I haven’t even seen the order yet. I have just heard about it… Because of their witch-hunt, 45 people have lost their jobs,” Samuel said.
“The Kolkata police have been harassing everyone from my journalist colleagues to my driver. They picked up my driver and asked him things like how much do I drink or if I have any girl friends.”
Samuel said Narada News was forced to shut down after the Kolkata police sealed its office in New Delhi last month.
“It is a small website, some colleagues have been updating it using their mobiles. But the operation as such has shut down. The false cases against me have chased away the investors,” he added. “If there is a fair and impartial inquiry, a lot will come out.”
Investigating an alleged extortion call made to a former Bihar MP, Kolkata police raided Samuel’s Delhi home and office on February 14.
“They claimed to have found a laptop in a hotel somewhere and came after me trying to link me to the call. From the time I did the sting, I knew I would be harassed,” he said.
Narada News published the sting last year in March in which Samuel, posing as Santosh Shankaran, a businessman from Chennai, approached TMC leaders from Parliamentarians to ministers in the West Bengal state government.
The investigations and sting operation, he said, started before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and continued for two years before an edited version was published online.
In April last year, the HC asked Samuel to hand over the tapes for safe custody.
“The matter, which has serious ramifications on the entire system if the information is true, … we feel the video tapes and device be kept in safe custody for meeting the ends of justice,” the bench headed by then chief justice Manjula Chellur observed. Samuel said he handed all evidence including 52 hours of video footage to the court.
“I have handed over everything to the court. The CBI should investigate all aspects,” he said.