India TV’s Hemant Sharma under CBI scanner

The channel’s former news director's name has cropped up in a corruption case.

ByNL Team
India TV’s Hemant Sharma under CBI scanner
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On August 8, during early evening hours, India TV Managing Director Ritu Dhawan shot off an email to the channel’s employees.

The e-mail announced the exit of India TV News Director Hemant Sharma and stated that he had decided “to take a sabbatical from his career”. The e-mail further said Sharma has had a long journey with India TV and that the channel’s “best wishes” were with him.

A news director or an editor leaving a media house isn’t exactly headline material. But in this case, Sharma’s exit is noteworthy because of the circumstances leading up to his departure and his 16-year-long association with the channel.

Top sources in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have confirmed to Newslaundry that Sharma is under the scanner for his role in an alleged case of corruption involving certain officials in the Union Health Ministry and owners of a medical college.

The case 

On August 3, the CBI filed a first information report (FIR) against Narendra Singh and Kunwar Nishant Singh. The FIR charges the father-son duo under Sections 120-B of Indian Penal Code and Section 8 & 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act for criminal conspiracy and taking and offering illegal gratification by corrupt and illegal means to influence public servants.

Narendra is Chairman of World College of Medical Science and Research and Hospital, Jhajjar, Haryana and manages its affairs along with his son, Kunwar Nishant.

The institution is among the 32 private medical colleges that were banned from admitting students for two years because of substandard facilities. The Union Health Ministry had come to this decision in July this year based on an inspection report.

The CBI FIR names another father-son duo of Vaibhav Sharma and VK Sharma, residents of Sector 44, Noida, along with unknown public servants of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and unknown private persons.

According to CBI sources, Narendra and Kunwar Nishant had allegedly sought to lobby with higher-ups in the ministry to get World College of Medical Science and Research and Hospital’s name off the list of the 32 medical institutions that were debarred from admitting students. It is alleged that for this purpose the two got in touch with Vaibhav and VK Sharma.

The CBI in its FIR says that “illegal gratification was likely to be delivered to Vaibhav Sharma and VK Sharma for influencing and inducing senior functionaries of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by corrupt or illegal means through their contacts.”

CBI sources state that after a deal was struck between the two parties, the file on the World College of Medical Science and Research and Hospital moved pretty fast in the ministry. This is when the CBI was tipped off by an insider in the ministry about a possible scam. CBI sources told Newslaundry that it started tracking the calls of the four accused and finally called them for interrogation on August 2. The accused were arrested on August 5.

Journalist as the middleman?

According to CBI sources, it is during the interrogation with the accused that India TV news director’s name cropped up as a go-between with health ministry officials. The agency questioned Sharma on August 9 on his alleged role in helping out the accused in lobbying with ministry officials. A day before this, Sharma stepped down from India TV for his supposed sabbatical.

Sharma is one of the key members of founding team at India TV and is known to be a close associate of Rajat Sharma, chairman of India TV. His clout extends beyond the world of media into politics. Last month, his daughter’s wedding saw the who’s who of Lutyens Delhi as attendees including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cabinet ministers like Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, Opposition party leaders like Ahmad Patel and some of the top bureaucrats.

According to a Caravan story, Sharma played a crucial role in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and is a close confidante of BJP President Amit Shah.

Since Sharma’s role in the case of alleged bribing of health ministry officials is a subject of CBI’s investigation, it is difficult to ascertain his relationship with the accused. CBI sources have stated that they recovered an invitation card of a pre-marriage party arranged by one of the accused, Vaibhav Sharma, in honour of Sharma’s daughter’s wedding at a posh Noida club.

We reached out to Sharma to ask him if his departure from India TV had something to do with the CBI questioning him. The story will be updated as and when we receive a response. We also reached out Ritu Dhawan and asked her if India TV was aware of CBI questioning Sharma. The story will be updated when she chooses to respond.

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