Hyderabad: Is Ravi Prakash, the Founder Chairman and former CEO of ABCL Pvt Ltd, a victim of power abuse? Are malafide intentions of powerful businessmen of the state behind his 21-day imprisonment? Is this an ugly corporate take-over battle or a carefully planned strategy to stifle independent media in the Telugu states? All these questions and more are doing rounds in both political and media fraternities for the past six months.
Everything seemed hunky-dory in the leading television news network, TV9 till first week of May this year until a hundred policemen pounded into Ravi Prakash’s house. Suddenly, things went into a drastic downward spiral from then on. In a series of dramatic events followed by, a man who was known to have revolutionised vernacular media, especially in the Telugu states become a criminal overnight. In these six months period, a battery of six cases which include all kinds of charges from forgery to fake mail ID creation were slapped against him. The origin of some of these cases seems downright petty and malicious. This is not a statement from just common observers but even the Honorable High Court of Telangana. Last week, when one of the cases came for a hearing, the Honorable High Court made some interesting comments on Hyderabad police. The High Court opined that the behaviour of the police is “unfair and immoral”.
The background of the case is that, on 5th October 2019, Ravi Prakash was apparently stopped on the road by some policemen who are not even in uniform. Without even serving a 41A notice, Rabi Prakash was arrested and was allegedly forced to transfer his share for free to the two businessmen who control TV9 now. He was charged with an ‘18 crore financial fraud where he withdrew money from the company’s bank account’, as per the FIR. A customary glance through the FIR reeks of malicious intent according to the lawyers of Ravi Prakash. They stated that TV9 as a profitable brand has been giving bonuses for its employees for almost a decade. Also, they found wrong with the TV9 authorities as there were three people named in the complaint – Ravi Prakash, MKVN Murthy and Clifford Perriera, but taking only the former two into charge. Clifford continues to serve them on the board and is still an employee with ABCL. The legal team’s other contention is that Ravi Prakash has been attending police station every alternative day since July and hence there was no need for judicial remand. They further feel the timing of the arrest was also pre-planned since courts were on vacation for Diwali.
Ravi Prakash was implicated in yet another new case wherein a PT warrant was issued and he was again remanded, while he was on judicial remand in the bonus case and was on the verge of getting the bail. Ravi Prakash’s team states that 41A notice was not served and in a case where the maximum punishment was 3 years, a judicial remand serves no purpose but for vendetta.
When the lawyers of Ravi Prakash approached the High Court, the judge commented about the sorry state of affairs. When the prosecution asked for the police custody, the honourable court sharply questioned – “What is the punishment? Is it life imprisonment?”, “What is the need for police custody?”, “Under what sections is he detained when the de-facto states he is not an accused?”, “ This shows bonafide of your investigation agency and your intention”. And the High Court granted a stay on this investigation.
The comments said to have come as a rude shock to the powerful businessmen behind the whole episode. Two businessmen backed by state CM K Chandrasekhar Rao are believed to be hounding Ravi Prakash, his co-workers and friends, implicating then in false cases. The two businessmen Rameshwara Rao of MyHome group and P Krishna Reddy from Megha Engineering got a majority stake in ABCPL, holding the company of TV9.
It is believed that they are now using police department to takeover Ravi Prakash’s minority stake in the company. A lot of observers feel that this is the reason why the police kept asking the court to grant ‘a 10-day police custody’ for investigation, which is not a norm in such petty cases. Earlier, while granting anticipatory bail to Ravi Prakash in first three cases filed in May, the High Court commented that the businessmen with the support of police are trying to settle business scores through criminal cases. These are the matter of arbitration, the court added.
Top brass in the Hyderabad police department is said to have to rue in private that the department is being subjected to insurmountable pressure in hounding Ravi Prakash and his friends. According to highly placed sources, they are ‘instructed’ to file more cases to bring Ravi Prakash into terms with the two businessmen.
It may be noted that about 90 per cent of media houses are in the grip of the ruling TRS party, directly or indirectly. In this scenario, TV9, which is known for the independent voice was taken over in a hostile way and the man who created the brand is being harassed day in and day out. They are visibly using all this media muscle to systematically tarnish the image of Ravi Prakash.