Exactly two months after he was arrested by Chhattisgarh Police in the middle of the night from his Ghaziabad home, journalist and member of the Editors Guild of India Vinod Verma walked out of Raipur Central jail on Thursday evening. Verma was granted bail by a special CBI court in Raipur on Thursday, after no chargesheet was filed by the police or the CBI two months after his arrest. Formal investigation into the case was taken over by the CBI two weeks ago.
At 3 am on October 27, Verma was arrested by a team of Chhattisgarh Police from his residence in Ghaziabad. The police said he was arrested following a complaint by BJP worker Prakash Bajaj, who alleged that he had been receiving phone calls that there was an indecent CD of his “aaka”(masters) and if he did not pay up, their names would be besmirched. The police alleged that they recovered from Verma’s residence 1,000 CDs, containing a purported sex clip of Chhattisgarh minister Rajesh Munat. He was booked for extortion and dissemination of the CD. Munat too filed a case against Verma and state Congress president Bhupesh Baghel, accusing them of distributing the CD. Verma also worked with the Congress in Chhattisgarh.
Verma’s lawyers have maintained that the case was fabricated and that the CDs were planted at his residence. So far, the police have yet not been able to clarify if it was Verma who made the extortion call, or if he ever intended to or received any money. There has also been little clarity on the origin of the CDs.
On Thursday, special CBI magistrate Shantanu Kumar Deshlehre granted Verma bail on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh after the defence sought bail on Wednesday. His advocate Faisal Rizvi said he was granted bail following the failure of investigating agencies to file a chargesheet even after two months of his arrest.
As Verma walked out of jail on Thursday evening, he was met by Baghel and senior Congress leaders R P Singh and Shailesh Nitin Trivedi. Speaking to reporters, Verma said all he wanted to do was journalism, but that was difficult in Chhattisgarh. He asked, “Why would I blackmail someone. I have three phone numbers and all call detail records can be checked, but they have not been able to prove anything.” Verma also said that he was collecting evidence of “wrongdoing” in the Jhiram massacre, the 2013 Maoist attack which killed senior Congress leaders as well as the Antagarh tape controversy in 2015.