While seeking to deny charges of misappropriation of funds by a trust that seeks to benefit disabled persons under him, Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid got into a war of words with journalists representing the TV Today group on Sunday.
In a bid to clear the air following charges that had been levelled against him while he was away in London pertaining to the affairs of the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, Mr. Khurshid had soon after his return convened a press conference to put forth his side of the story.
Reporters arrived to find Mr. Khurshid seeking to bar the TV Today group from attending his press conference. He, however, yielded to the general request from other media persons to allow it.
Mr. Khurshid maintained his offensive against the group even in his opening remarks saying that he would be targeting its “sting” operation and had not invited India Today and its other groups deliberately. He acknowledged receiving three letters from TV Today group Chairman-Cum-Managing Director Aroon Purie “to take our part of the story” but added that what was aired was “their home work and story.”
Mr. Khurshid maintained he was particularly hurt that the sting had been broadcast when he was away in the U.K., where he was being feted and projected him “as a bad man. There people asked me why this was happening.”
The group reporters were equally prepared for the occasion, armed with their own documents and papers. The more Mr. Khurshid attacked the group and Mr. Purie, they threw well directed barbs at him. The TV today group reporters sought to continuously enquire about the role of the trust in obtaining the allegedly forged affidavit and checklists and that the list of beneficiaries contained fake names.
“We did a reverse sting,” he told Md. Azharuddin, MP, obviously referring to the reverse swing by fast bowlers in cricket. “The beneficiaries said they had denied receiving any equipment expecting something from them.”
The reporters shot back: “We did not do a sting. We recorded their views on camera.”
Mr. Khurshid presented one of them, Rangi Mistry, who told reporters that he had made the statement hoping to get a replacement for the faulty hearing aid he possessed.
He took umbrage at the repeated questions by the group’s reporters and shouted at them a number of times: “I’ll have to ask you to leave… You can’t do that to me… you stop pointing at me” and asked other journalists to silence them.
“I’ll see you in court…” shouted an enraged Mr. Khurshid, targeting Mr. Purie. “His life is in trouble. He has produced a wrong story.”
Mr. Khurshid said India Today and Mr. Purie would not be able to find a word to defend themselves when the defamation case comes up for hearing in a couple of days.
He warned that the Trust would be filing similar cases even in London as the story had been aired there too.
Mr. Khurshid maintained that the disputed questions involved “journalistic and political ethics and both need to be answered.”
‘Stands by report’
The India Today Group said it stood by its investigative story on the alleged irregularities indulged in by the Dr. Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust.
In a statement, the group attacked Mr. Khurshid for his aggressive posture saying, “Aggression is not a substitute for facts” and that its reporters had “not launched personal attacks at the press conference.”