A doctor named Ajay Agarwal has accused television journalists Rajdeep Sardesai (currently with India Today group), Ashutosh (currently a politician with Aam Aadmi Party) and Raghav Bahl (currently running The Quint) of ruining his life and reputation by airing a ‘fake sting operation’ in 2006 on news channels IBN7 and CNN-IBN (both channels have now been re-branded as News18 and CNN-News18 respectively, and are currently part of the Reliance owned Network18 group).
Dr. Agarwal has been fighting the battle to regain his life and reputation in these 12 years, but claims that none of these apologised for ruining his life despite subsequent probes finding him not guilty. In the sting operation, he was declared guilty of amputating limbs of healthy people so that they can beg and earn more. He was branded a ‘Shaitan Doctor’ (Devil Doctor) by the news channels that aired the sting operation.
Dr. Agarwal claims that his life was ruined by Rajdeep Sardesai, Ashutosh, and Raghav Bahl so that these people can get good TRPs for their news channels, which were launched the same year. Apart from these three and management of the channels, he also blames a reporter named Jamshed Khan, who allegedly framed him in the sting operation. He had gone to court against all these individuals and cases are ongoing, with some success to Dr. Agarwal.
Speaking to portal Bhadas4media.com, Dr. Agarwal alleges that Jamshed Khan, whom he refers to as a blackmailer, had concocted the fake sting operation and given it to IBN7. He further alleges that the channels IBN7 and CNN-IBN were newly launched and were looking for sensational stories, which is why they continuously aired the program for almost a week in July 2006. This led to an inquiry against Dr. Agarwal. He was working as an orthopedic surgeon at District Hospital, Gautam Budh Nagar at that time.
He recalls how he had his family had to face a lot of embarrassment, as people clustered outside his house to protest for days, some even throwing stones.
Aggrieved by the alleged defamation and hardships he had to face, Agarwal issued a legal notice to all the concerned parties in November 2006. Subsequently, in September 2007, an FIR was registered at Gilani Gate police station in Ghaziabad on a complaint made by the doctor. He also filed a complaint with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which then issued a show-cause notice in November 2007 to IBN7 asking for an explanation for violating the Programme Code. However, no action was taken against the channels.
Dr. Agarwal informs that Allahabad High Court had observed that he was exonerated in many inquiries conducted at various levels, which led to the Inter Ministerial Committee constituted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting asking the news channels to run an apology for three days in January 2008, in form of a scroll at the bottom of the screen. But no apology was run by the news channels, and instead Dr. Agarwal had to fight a long legal battle.
In his interview to Bhadas4media.com, Dr. Agarwal rued that administration or the government did not act against the channels despite him being exonerated in various probes. He claimed that the Ministry was under ‘political pressure’ not to act against likes of Rajdeep Sardesai, Ashutosh or Raghav Bahl. He further claimed that these individuals don’t even appear during court hearings, thus showing a disdainful attitude towards the system.
The cases are still ongoing, and in 2016, The Delhi High Court had again observed in its judgment that the Medical Council had exonerated Dr. Agarwal for the alleged activities shown in the sting operation. It also notes that no witnesses came to depose against Dr. Agarwal or to provide evidences, despite such appeals made by the council through the media.
In February this year it was reported that the Supreme Court had allowed cases to be followed up against Rajdeep Sardesai, Ashutosh, Raghav Bahl and others, which Dr. Agarwal says is another step towards his victory.
Dr. Agarwal recollects getting in touch with other media bigwigs like Barkha Dutt and Rajat Sharma, requesting them to intervene and ask Rajdeep Sardesai and others to tender a simple apology, or at least air the news about him being innocent, but none of them extended any sort of help, he said in a disquieted tone.
The menace of sting operations showing half-truths and damaging someone’s reputation is not new. A year after this sting operation against Dr. Agarwal, i.e. in 2007, another sting operation was found to be fabricated, and in that case, the news channel that aired the sting was banned for a month and the reporter was arrested. Dr. Agarwal has cited this incident as a precedent and has demanded that similar actions should be taken against the channels and the people involved.
However, he repeated that since people involved in this particular case are ‘powerful’ and with ‘connections’, he had to fight such a long battle, which is still ongoing.