It was on 26th January last year that Barkha Dutt launched her ambitious TV News venture, with the blessings of Kapil Sibal who turned out to be the new employer of Dutt and 200 other staff at what was initially called Harvest TV. Then, within weeks of its launch, copyright issues surfaced which resulted in the channel being renamed to ‘Tiranga TV’.
Barely six months after its launch, the channel had proven to be a colossal failure in the news market and caught no eyes, which resulted in investor withdrawals and also virtually no advertisements for the channel to keep itself afloat. Mass layoffs then put the professional careers of many journalists and production staff on the line, who were being unceremoniously sacked like a herd of cattle, in complete violation of the contract which assured them minimum two years of employment. The staff was further not paid its salaries, and a demand for the same soon snowballed into a demonstration by the staff members at Tiranga TV’s newsroom. As a result, Kapil Sibal and his wife sent bouncers to quell the protests, in a clear attempt at muzzling the voices of journalists who were trying to rightfully demand what they were owed. Barkha Dutt had back then responded on Twitter, vowing to take the matter to the courts. Thus, a channel owned by the Congress which aimed to stabilize the news scene in the country, was dramatically shut down.
In this context, there have been some developments on the cases filed by Barkha Dutt against her former employers Kabil Sibal and his wife, Promila Sibal. Barkha, as per a report in ThePrint, demanded an amount of Rs 74,02,140, at 18 per cent interest, which she said included her pending salary, remuneration for extra work and compensation for breach of contract. The Sibals have meanwhile asked the court for time, to try and ‘mediate’ with Barkha Dutt and settle the case out of the courts. Sibal has demanded that the matter be referred to time-bound mediation process, submitting that he “strongly believes that the instant matter can be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned without the Plaintiff (Dutt) having to engage in a protracted legal battle in relation to a claim which, it is respectfully submitted, has no legal basis.” The court, however, slated the next hearing for April and also asked Kapil Sibal to file his written response within 15 days, thus, dismissing his plea of attempting a mediation with the journalist.
Who would have thought that Barkha and Kapil would be at loggerheads with each other? People who usually look after each other in the national capital, suddenly challenging one another in a courtroom is certainly a seldom sight. Barkha Dutt has been a loyalist to the Congress, specifically 10 Janpath her entire career. For her to wage a war against a stalwart like Kapil Sibal says a lot about the way the Congress treats its loyalists, with utter disdain and disrespect. Nevertheless, Barkha has ensured that her enmity with Sibal does not affect her working relation with the Congress. Kudos to her for that!