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‘Blackmail, cheating, extortion, conspiracy’ — Jharkhand ‘editor’ SC backed is wanted in 34 cases

On the night of 16 June, police took Arup Chatterjee, head of News11 Bharat, into custody from his bedroom. Cases have been filed against him in Jharkhand, Bengal, Mumbai & Delhi.

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Dhanbad/Ranchi: “This is no way to treat a journalist. This is complete lawlessness.” So said Supreme Court judge D.Y. Chandrachud about how Arup Chatterjee, the head of a Jharkhand-based TV channel called News11 Bharat, was reportedly hauled out from his bedroom at midnight and arrested by the Dhanbad police in July. The court decided on 29 August that it would not interfere with a high court bail order in favour of Chatterjee.

Back in Dhanbad, however, Chatterjee is famed less for his “journalism” and more for a range of illegal activities he was allegedly involved in. His channel employed the tagline “sach hai toh dikhega” (If it’s true, we will show it), but the police claim he would dangle the threat of “fake” news to blackmail targets.

“Arup Chatterjee would use fake news to extort money. He would run fake promos against individuals and blackmail them,” Dhanbad Superintendent of Police (SP) Amar Kumar Pandey told ThePrint. “We have approached the Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry to check News11 Bharat and close the channel if it is found to be airing news without a license.”

In July, the Jharkhand High Court had granted bail to Chatterjee after his wife, Baby, who is a director at News11 Bharat, claimed he was unlawfully arrested for broadcasting a story about corruption. It was while hearing the Jharkhand government’s petition against the order that the Supreme Court had observed that Chatterjee was a “journalist” and not a “terrorist”.

However, the relief for Chatterjee was short-lived. He is currently behind bars because of other cases.

So far, at least 34 police complaints have been filed against him across Jharkhand, and even in West Bengal, Mumbai, and Delhi, for crimes ranging from extortion and blackmail, to criminal conspiracy and cheating.

Even the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing his alleged role in a multi-crore chit fund case involving a company called Care Vision where he had been one of the managing directors until 2012.

A senior CBI official in Ranchi told ThePrint that Chatterjee was suspected of duping investors by promising them large monetary returns. The CBI had already questioned him on the matter in July and is now seeking his remand to interrogate him further.

Shahanwaz Malik, Arup Chatterjee’s lawyer who filed a petition before the high court in Ranchi, told ThePrint that he has “no instructions from [his] client to issue any statement at this point”.

However, he added that while Chatterjee had been granted interim bail in the Rakesh Ojha case, he remains in judicial custody in three other cases. One bail hearing is listed for 7 September and the others in the coming weeks.

So, who is Arup Chatterjee — a ‘wronged journalist’ or a conman who used his channel as a tool to commit crimes? What finally led to his arrest, and why is he still in trouble?

Also read: ‘Suspect’ Muslims & want to pay crores to be a ‘TV journalist’? Suresh Chavhanke has job for you

‘Blackmail’ vs ‘exposing corruption’

On the night of 16 June, a police team from Dhanbad arrived at Madgul Habitat, a posh apartment complex in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi, and proceeded to take Arup Chatterjee into custody from his bedroom.

Madgul Habitat in Ranchi, from where the police arrested Arup Chatterjee | Sreyashi Dey

The cops were acting on an extortion complaint filed at Dhanbad’s Govindpur police station by coal trader Rakesh Ojha, who told mediapersons that he was being “tortured” by News 11 channel via “fake stories” and was also receiving threats.

Arup Chatterjee’s News11 Bharat had reportedly aired a report claiming that Ojha, the son-in-law of former Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey, had allegedly smuggled coal. Ojha had stored messages and recorded phone calls purportedly from Arup Chatterjee, which he later furnished as evidence.

Ojha also demanded that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Income Tax Department look into the “shell companies” funding Chatterjee’s news channel.

As he was being carted away in a police vehicle after his arrest, Chatterjee told local reporters that he was being victimised for trying to unearth a “Rs 2,000-crore coal scam” in Dhanbad and that he would continue to expose the “truth”.

Meanwhile, Baby Chatterjee told the Jharkhand High Court that her husband had been “falsely implicated” and that the Dhanbad police had “at the behest of [higher-ups] shut the mouth of one of the pillars of democracy”.

The court granted bail to the “journalist” on 20 July, but within a day he was re-arrested and kept in jail on the basis of another four-year-old cheating, breach of trust and criminal conspiracy case registered at Putki Police Station.

This case had been registered in 2018 by Loyabad resident Manoj Pandit, who had worked as an agent of the now defunct Care Vision Companies, which was purportedly owned by Arup Chatterjee and dealt in chit funds.

‘No license’, dropped names of ‘BJP leaders’ 

For a so-called media personality, there is not much in the public domain about Jharkhand resident Arup Chatterjee or how he assumed the mantle of a journalist.

What is known is that until about 2012, he was one of the managing directors of Care Vision Companies.

He is also the director of a company called Media Eleven Pvt Ltd, which owns News11 Bharat, a channel that was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Ranchi.

News11 Bharat claims to have about 200 employees in its LinkedIn profile, has about 2.4 lakh followers on its Facebook page, and 1.96 lakh subscribers on YouTube. 

The channel’s coverage includes reportage on local incidents, as well as a smattering of what are said to be exposés and investigative reports in its primetime shows. One of its most popular reports on the YouTube channel, with over 3 million views, was about a drunken youth in Jamshedpur, back in 2019.

More recently, it covered how arrested IAS officer Puja Singhal‘s family member had allegedly built Ranchi’s Pulse Hospital without government clearances. This report got close to one thousand views on YouTube. The channel also reports widely on political developments and their implications. A report from the state Legislative Assembly last week received almost 1,400 views on Facebook.

In a 2013 interview on his own channel, Chatterjee spoke about his experience working in “big news channels” and always having a desire to “combat authority”. Sounding like every bit the crusading journalist, he said he was devoted to speaking truth to power no matter what forces went against him — cue the channel’s tagline, “sach hai toh dikhega”.

What is yet to be seen, though, is a valid license for the channel, the police have alleged.

A senior officer investigating the matter, told ThePrint that Arup Chatterjee hasn’t been able to provide any license to prove the legal validity of his channel during investigation. “He has not been able to furnish uplink and downlink licenses of News11 Bharat”, he said. “He is a fake journalist, he doesn’t have any degree either to prove his qualifications.”

News 11 Bharat office in Ranchi | Sreyashi Dey

Jharkhand Police has raided Chatterjee’s house and the News11 Bharat office in Ranchi in the ongoing investigations. “We have recovered electronic evidence, video recordings, and CCTV footage that are currently being examined,” said Dhanbad (rural) SP Reshma.

A senior CBI official on condition of anonymity claimed that during the investigation, Chatterjee was “dropping names of central BJP leaders”. The CBI officer added that when Chatterjee launched News11, he didn’t have a license to broadcast.

ThePrint went to Arup Chatterjee’s flat in Ranchi to speak to Baby Chatterjee. Their son answered the door and said she wasn’t home.

However, four men who were sitting in the drawing room and claimed to be News11 employees said that the matter was “sensitive” and that they had been given legal advice to not speak to the media.

“Wait for 10 days, after Arup gets bail, and we will speak to everyone, but not at the moment,” one of the men said.

‘My money was gone’

Over the past few weeks, cases, old and new, against Chatterjee have been stacking up.

When ThePrint visited Govindpur Police Station, investigation officer Deepak Jha was not present. “I am in Ranchi serving a notice in an Arup Chatterjee case,” he relayed via another officer at the station.

Govindpur police station in Ranchi | Sreyashi Dey

Dhanbad SP Amar Kumar Pandey told ThePrint that the 34 cases registered against Chatterjee include 22 court complaints filed in Ranchi and Koderma in Jharkhand and in New Delhi and Mumbai. “So far five chargesheets have been filed against Chatterjee, including one in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas,” he said.

In July, Former Dhanbad District Board Chairman Robin Gorai filed an FIR against Chatterjee at Kalubathan police station for cheating him of Rs 10 lakh through a scheme of his earlier company Care Vision.

He told ThePrint that his brush with Arup Chatterjee had taken place a decade ago but he was emboldened to file the case only after the TV channel head had been arrested.

“In 2012, I gave Arup Chatterjee a cheque of Rs 10 lakh for his company Care Vision. Five months later I was told the company had shut down. My money was gone. He had come to my home with a close friend of mine so I trusted him when he spoke to me about his company and asked me to buy bonds,” Gorai said.

Officer-in-charge of Baliapur police station Pawan Kumar Chowdhury confirmed that a different FIR involving the same Care Vision scheme was filed under his PS by Sanjay Kumar, the head of Amtal Panchayat. Kumar claimed he had lost Rs 7.1 lakh to Arup Chatterjee’s investment scheme.

Then there is an eight-year-old case filed by the owner of an automobile showroom, for which the Bank More police has filed a production warrant.

In 2014, Arup Chatterjee had allegedly taken a Safari car from Classic Automobiles in Dhanbad and assured the owner Rajendra Prasad that he would send the money over soon. That, allegedly, never happened.

ThePrint visited Prasad’s residence in Shastri Nagar, but he was not available. His wife, Sunita, who was in Kolkata, said that they would provide a comment later, but had not responded by the time of publishing this report.

(Edited by Asavari Singh)

Also read: Patna journalist fired over inappropriate comments on Jharkhand teen death


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