A station house officer (SHO) and three journalists were arrested by Noida Police from Sector 20 police station in the early hours of Wednesday for allegedly taking a bribe from a man accused of running a fake call centre. It is alleged that they promised to drop the man’s name from the FIR if he coughed up the money.
Police recovered Rs 8 lakh, a Mercedes car, a .32 bore pistol and six phones from the accused.
The four accused — inspector Manoj Kumar Pant and journalists Udit Goyal, Sushil Pandit and Raman Thakur — were taken into custody and sent to the Anti-Corruption Court of Meerut Division, which sent them to 14-days judicial custody.
Pant had been serving as the station in-charge of Sector 20 police station for eight months. Goyal is employed as a freelancer for a news channel, while Thakur was previously a freelancer, police said. Pandit works with his independently established media company, Sansani India, which operates in Noida, Greater Noida.
“We received a complaint from one Pushpendra Chauhan Sunday that he was receiving extortion calls from the accused journalists and policeman. We formed teams and initiated ‘operation trap’. We started trailing them from Tuesday morning to keep track of their movements and their locations. The trail led to Sector 20 police station. We raided the premises post-midnight and caught them red-handed. All four persons were arrested and proceedings were initiated,” said Vaibhav Krishna, Senior Superintendent of Police (Gautam Buddh Nagar).
According to police, the fake centre allegedly run by Chauhan was raided by police in Sector 20 in November 2018. Criminal action was initiated against Chauhan and his brother for allegedly defrauding foreign citizens under the garb of selling products through the centre.
The FIR was filed under IPC sections 420 (cheating) and 406 (criminal breach of trust). While Chauhan’s brother was arrested, he was being investigated.
According to police, the journalists allegedly approached Chauhan later, asking for money in return for removing his name from the FIR. Police said they allegedly made the calls on behalf of Pant. Chauhan’s letter to the police chief claimed the accused were asking for Rs 8 lakh.
“Whether the Rs 8 lakh was an installment of a larger payment is a matter of investigation. But it is clear the police officer and the journalists were working together. We oversaw the transaction between Chauhan and the accused — the notes that were exchanged were marked with a chemical. After we raided the station, we made the accused wash their hands and they changed colour, confirming their role in the transaction,” said SSP Krishna.
According to police, the accused tried to resist arrest but were eventually put in a cell in Sector 20 station before being taken to Meerut the next day. The gun is registered in Goyal’s name, while the Mercedes prima facie appears to be stolen, police said.
The SSP was part of the raid and was assisted by teams formed by SP (Rural) Vineet Jaiswal and SP (City) Sudha Singh.
Two government employees of the Horticulture and Weights and Measures departments were present during the raid as independent observers.
An FIR has been filed against the accused under IPC section 384 (punishment for extortion) and sections 7,8 and 13 of the Anti-Corruption Act, 1988.
Additional SHO Jaiveer Singh has been suspended.
Speaking to the media, Pant claimed he was innocent. “All the allegations against me are baseless. I have full faith in the justice system… Nothing was recovered from me and I have no such relations with media persons.”