Indore: Police in Madhya Pradesh on Sunday continued cracking down on the Indore-based media house, which first brought to light the honey trap scandal that implicated several of the state’s political leaders.
In a major raid last night, the Indore police raided four establishments affiliated to the Sanjha Lokswami newspaper.
Raids were also conducted a night club and other establishments of an Indore-based businessman in connection with the infamous Madhya Pradesh honey-trap case, and rescued 67 women and seven children, officials said on Sunday.
The raids were carried out by police and Indore district officials on Saturday night at the residence of the businessman Jitendra Soni, at the office of an eveninger run by him, besides a hotel, a restaurant and a beer bar- all operated by him, police said. While Soni is on the run, his son Amit has been arrested.
Police have registered four separate cases against Soni, Amit, and their associates.
The local eveninger, of which Soni is the editor-in-chief, had reportedly published some reports on the basis of audio-video clips purportedly involving some influential people in connection with the honey-trap racket. These included former minister Laxmikant Sharma, former bureaucrat SK Mishra and suspended superintendent engineer of Indore Municipal Corporation Harbhajan Singh.
The Indore Press Club and several other journalist organisations condemned the raid on the eveninger's office, saying it was aimed at "intimidating" the fourth pillar of democracy. Journalists took to social media to denounce the action.
The raids were conducted on a complaint filed by Harbhajan Singh, suspended superintendent engineer of Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC), an official said. Singh is the complainant in the honey-trap case.
"Following the raids, four separate FIRs were registered in as many local police stations against Soni, his son Amit and people linked with them," senior superintendent of police (SSP) Ruchi Vardhan Misra told PTI.
In his complaint, Singh alleged that the owner of the evening newspaper (Soni) published objectionable material against him through different mediums of communications in infringement of his privacy, another official said, adding that an FIR under Information and Technology (IT) Act was registered in this connection. The owners and editor of the newspaper have been booked under sections 67 and 67 (A) of the IT act.
The official said that during the raid conducted at the night club run by Soni and his family at Geeta Bhawan square on Saturday night, 67 women and seven children were rescued. Some of the rescued women belonged to West Bengal and Assam, who were allegedly kept in poor condition and made to work as bar dancers.
An FIR was registered under IPC section 370 (prevention of human trafficking), the official said.
The rescued women have been given shelter and their statements were being recorded, the official added. During the raid conducted at Soni's house, police recovered 36 bullets and six used cartridges. An FIR was registered under the Arms Act in this connection.
According to Misra, during the raid at the office of Soni's media house, some electronic devices were recovered and three suspicious lockers were sealed.
However, she dismissed reports that the printing press of the eveninger has been sealed.
According to the SSP, Soni has also been booked under IPC section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) for not passing on the information to local
police about his staffers hired in the beer bar.
Further investigation into the case is on, the official added. In September this year, five women and a man were arrested from Indore and Bhopal for allegedly running the honey-trap and blackmailing racket. The racket was busted after Harbhajan Singh approached the police, claiming he was being blackmailed over some objectionable video clips by the accused who were trying to extort about Rs 3 crore from him.
The accused - Aarti Dayal (29), Monika Yadav (18), Shweta Vijay Jain (39), Shweta Swapnil Jain (48), Barkha Soni (34) and Omprakash Kori (45) - are currently in judicial custody.
Meanwhile, the Indore bench of MP high court on Monday also undertook hearing in a petition in honey trapping case where Harbhajan Singh’s lawyer demanded that media desists from reporting about his client and the case be handed to CBI.
Speaking to the media on the crackdown on Sunday, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed that administration action in the case isn't wrong, but if action is targetting only a single group that is exposing leaders and officers affiliated to the state government, then it’s not proper.
A request for a reaction from MP Congress was yet to be received at the time the story was published. While the editor and owner of the newspaper –Jirendra Soni is missing, his son Amit Soni is in police detention till reports last came in on Monday.
(With PTI inputs)