It was a day of mixed feelings on Tuesday for the Aamoda Broadcasting Network, the company that broadcasts ABN Andhra Jyothy, one of the leading news channels in the two Telugu-speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The Supreme Court has directed the Telangana government to restore broadcasting the channel through Multi-System Operators (MSOs) in the state, thereby lifting a 502-day ban. However, the Ranga Reddy district court has ordered a police enquiry into the misappropriation of funds collected by the channel's MD V. Radhakrishna, for the treatment of conjoined twins Veena and Vani.
What is the case all about?
Twelve-year-olds Veena and Vani have been fused since birth, and the only solution that gives the twins a 75 percent chance of leading a normal life is a complex surgery.
According to a report in Firstpost, what makes the case so tough and complicated is that the dural sinus which pumps blood from the heart to the brain is common for both of them, even though they have two separate brains. While the artery can be restructured for only one of them, the other needs a completely fresh support system.
The cost involved is roughly Rs 10 crore. However, the parents of the twins, Murali and Nagalakshmi, live in a tin-roofed house in an interior village of Warangal district and struggle to feed a family of four. Apart from Veena and Vani, they have two more daughters, 13-year-old Bindu and 9-year-old Sindhu, and can barely make ends meet.
In January 2012, ABN Andhra Jyothy ran a special promo on Veena and Vani, claiming that whoever wants to help could send their donations to the channel's bank account.
They even reportedly followed it up with a live show, with the parents speaking in detail, about their troubles, to the channel.
(A screenshot from the promo)
However, the parents have since alleged that they haven't received a single rupee from the news channel, which in turn threatened them and asked them not to call again.
On Tuesday, a private petition filed by advocate S. Janardhan alleged that Radhakrishna diverted the funds worth nearly Rs 25 lakh that were collected, for his personal use.
Andhra Jyothy was a Telugu daily newspaper, first started by KLN Prasad in 1945. By the 2000s, the newspaper was slowly losing readership until Vemuri Radhakrishna reportedly stepped in and salvaged it. He then went on to launch the news channel on 15 October 2009.
The channel made its first breakthrough after exposing a 'sex scandal' of then Andhra Pradesh governor N D Tiwari in December 2009.
Radhakrishna is best known for his show 'Open heart with RK' where he interviews heavyweights and opinion leaders from all walks of life.
The 'ABN scam' was first broken on 'T News' in a two part series, with the twins' parents, the village sarpanch and a lawyer on the show, headlined 'Veena Vani Parents about ABN MD Radha Krishna Fundraising Scam.'
T News is run by Telangana's ruling TRS party while ABN's Radha Krishna is known to be a close aide of Andhra chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
ABN Andhra Jyothy has since hit back on T news' story with a headline titled 'KCR Channel Fake News Against ABN Fundraising For Veena And Vani Operation,' snowballing this into a full-scale media war.
The video, while criticizing the report by T News has given out a link, with a list of donors, claiming that the total amount collected by the media channel was only Rs 2,45,866.
It then went on to list out all the accusations against KCR, while claiming that its credibility as a media channel stood unscathed.
When contacted about the allegations, Andhra Jyothy MD V. Radhakrishna did not comment on the issue and said that they would soon issue a statement.
The court has directed the police to register a case under sections dealing with criminal breach of trust, cheating, dishonest misappropriation of property and criminal conspiracy. It has also asked the police to submit a report by November 16.