Days after Sanjha Lokswami, an Indore-based eveninger, carried reports and photographs regarding the ‘honey trap’ case and uploaded at least one video and transcripts of audio conversations on its website, police raided its office and other establishments owned by its editor Jitendra Soni.
The raids, including on Soni’s home, a hotel, a restaurant and a night club, started late on Friday and continued for hours. While Soni is missing, his son Amit, also an accused, has been detained.
After publishing stories on a former BJP minister and a powerful bureaucrat in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, the eveninger had in the past three days carried reports on the honey trap case complainant, Harbhajan Singh, and announced that more articles would follow, suggesting it was in possession of other videos of politicians and bureaucrats.
In September, based on Singh’s complaint, the Indore police had arrested five women and a driver in what came to be known as the honey trap case.
Singh had alleged that the women were blackmailing him, threatening to circulate videos showing him in a compromising position if he did not pay up Rs 3 crore.
One of the reports published by Sanjha Lokswami had photographs of Singh with two of the women. It alleged that Singh was himself involved in the scam but was forced to file a complaint to allow police to raid the premises owned by the women and take possession of electronic and other evidence and data from them to save the reputation of people who had been blackmailed in the past.
A case was registered at the MIG Police Station against Soni under Sections 67 and 67A of the Information Technology Act on Friday, based on Singh’s complaint. A senior officer said the eveninger had committed an offence under the IT Act by publishing photographs and details of intimate conversations between two people.
Indore SSP Ruchi Vardhan Mishra said Singh had not only complained about the photographs but also spoken about other irregularities in the business establishments of Soni. She said the police teams were accompanied by officials of the Excise, Revenue, Narcotics departments and Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC).
Mishra said the directors of My Home, the restaurant-cum-bar run by Soni, had been booked under the Human Trafficking Act, as they had found women from West Bengal and the Northeast living on its premises in abject conditions. She said the women could not give a satisfactory answer as to what they were doing there, and alleged that they were forced to dance, with tips given by patrons their only source of income.
Police have also lodged a case under the Arms Act as it found cartridges, including used, that didn’t match a licensed pistol. Police claim to have seized electronic and other evidence from Soni’s office that could be related to the honey trap case.
Police also claimed to have seized documents of several properties not belonging to Soni, and the SSP said there is a possibility he was extorting money through blackmail.
Separately, the IMC is looking into building violations.
On Friday, a VCD was submitted before the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which is hearing a petition seeking transfer of the investigation in the honey trap case to the CBI, by Soni’s advocate. The lawyer told the court that the VCD had videos and audio conversation lasting 15 hours, and that Soni wanted to submit it to ensure it was not misused.
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