A day after a selected few Indian TV anchors announced that the British middleman Christian Michel was to be extradited to India in AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, the news has turned out to be fake.
On Tuesday, a number of TV anchors and news outlets had announced the ‘news’ of a Dubai court ordering Michel’s extradition. Some of them were even quick to call the imaginary ‘order’ yet another ‘masterstroke’ by the Narendra Modi government.
Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN-News18 tweeted, “You know you are in election season when you get home at 11 pm and get ready to be back in studio at 8 am. Latest coming out, #ChristianMichel could be extradited back to India. In the morning,will give you story of #AgustaWestland that you haven’t heard so far.” Chaubey’s next tweet gleefully said the ‘entire Rafale debate will get subsumed’ when Michel is brought back to India. He concluded his tweet by stating ‘fireworks in store now.’
His colleague at the channel, Marya Shakil, too tweeted, “Significant win for the Indian Govt- Augusta Westland (sic) Middleman Christian Michel to be extradited.”
Even Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took the credit while telling the reporters, “It is a good development.” He didn’t stop here. The law minister also went on to a take a dig at the Congress by stating that he had detected a sense of ‘unease’ among some of their leaders. He said, “But I must point out that I notice a profound sense of unease in some leaders.”
The most excited among them, even more than the Modi government, appeared to be Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami, who yelled from his TV studio, “In a BIG breakthrough, United Arab Emirate is going to be extraditing AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel to India”
Goswami, who appeared hysterical, continued, “There is a court judgement on this matter. The details of the court judgement are with us. Big scoop out here.” Goswami, often seen flying the flag for the BJP and the central government, also appeared angry that the government had not moved swiftly even though the ‘court order’ was dated 2 September.
On Wednesday, in an extraordinary anti-climax, it emerged that the Dubai court had merely given its opinion on whether a foreign national could be extradited to a third country. Had Goswami and his like-minded TV representatives read the order carefully before jumping the gun in excitement, they would have avoided the public embarrassment.
On 2 September, the Dubai Court of Appeals had merely stated that Michel could be extradited to India. What no one in the pro-government Indian channels cared to broadcast was that this order was a mere opinion and this requires the approval of the UAE Minister of Justice even before its implementation process starts.
But, even before the order of the Dubai Court of Appeals is sent to the minister concerned, Michel has been given an opportunity to appeal this order by 2 October. The excitement among TV anchors was, therefore, premature. The episode must serve both Union Minister Prasad and his friends in TV channels a lesson on how to obtain facts before exhibiting their exuberance in public.