The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Another Naipaul causes Tehelka

New Delhi, Jan. 13: Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul may be the best-known ambassador of the BJP’s idea of cultural nationalism overseas, but at home the author and his wife Nadira are either turning up at the wrong places or saying the wrong things for the ruling party.

Naipaul and Nadira made a surprise appearance today in the Supreme Court while it was considering the bail application of Tehelka reporter Kumar Badal in a poaching case. Naipaul is on the board of Tehelka, the Internet portal that exposed corruption in defence deals involving politicians.

Badal was given bail on condition that he furnishes a bond of Rs 50,000 and two sureties of the same amount. He was charged under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Arms Act for allegedly filming poaching in the Mohand forest range in western Uttar Pradesh.

The case was initially registered by Uttar Pradesh police in Saharanpur district, but was subsequently transferred to the CBI.

Tehelka and its sympathisers have cited this case and some other actions of the government targeted at the portal as examples of vendetta for its revelations. The portal, started by journalist Tarun Tejpal, is now on the verge of closing down because of financial difficulties that some have traced to this “vendetta”.

That Badal was granted bail, with the court overruling the CBI’s objection and passing some harsh remarks, will strengthen allegations of official hounding of Tehelka.

Speaking on behalf of the portal, Anirudh Bahal said Naipaul and Nadira were in court to express solidarity with Badal. “He was appalled by the malicious prosecution of Badal by the CBI,” Bahal added.

He said Naipaul might address the media on Tehelka tomorrow.

Last week, Nadira had embarrassed the government by asking deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani uneasy questions about Gujarat.

Tehelka has already become a celebrated case of alleged government arm-twisting of the media for investigative reporting. Naipaul’s appearance in court and a possible news conference tomorrow can only bring further adverse publicity for the government. Besides, Badal’s incarceration for six months raises questions that the court itself has voiced.

A division bench of Justices N. Santosh Hegde and B.P. Singh rejected the CBI contention opposing Badal’s bail on the ground that the investigation was yet to be completed. The CBI had sought two more months.

The court pulled up the CBI, saying if the agency wants to finish an investigation, “it can do it within 24 hours and if it doesn’t want, it can go on for 24 years”.

It also observed that in a case where the maximum sentence was three years, a person could not be kept in custody for over six months for the sake of investigation. Badal was arrested on July 3.

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