BHOPAL: Multi-department teams, including police, raided four premises, among them media group and restaurant-bars owned by an influential businessman in Indore on Saturday-Sunday intervening night.
The media firm owned by the concerned businessmen Jitendra Soni publishes a popular Hindi evening daily ‘Sanjha Lokswami’ that had recently published a series of exposes on the high-profile honey trap racket that was busted with the arrest of five women in Bhopal and Indore in September.
The series of stories published by the concerned evening daily were connected to some high-profile persons, including an ex-minister of Shivraj Singh Chouhan government and an influential bureaucrat, who was very powerful during the previous BJP regime in the state.
Searched premises owned by influential businessman Jitendra Soni, included his residence in Alok Nagar locality, a restaurant-bar in Gita Bhawan locality, another restaurant and bar in Vijay Nagar area and the office of the media entity in MIG area.
According to Indore police official sources, the raids were conducted at Soni’s premises, after a suspended Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) official lodged a case under the IT Act at city’s MIG police station on Saturday, alleging that the concerned media group had invaded his privacy by publishing his pictures in objectionable position in the newspaper and also used sleaze videos to defame him.
Importantly, the concerned suspended IMC official is the same official whose complaint in September had led to the busting of the high-profile alleged honey-trap racket.
Subsequently, a case under provisions of the IT Act was lodged on Saturday against the father-son duo Jitendra Soni and Amit Soni, who run the concerned newspaper-media firm.
“The complainant had also mentioned that a restaurant-cum-bar owned by the owner of the media group in Indore was holding many women captive who were being used to shoot sleaze video and blackmail people. Acting on it, the multi-department teams comprising police, district administration, excise, revenue, narcotics and women and child development departments were constituted and raids were conducted at the four premises across the city,” SSP Indore Ruchi Vardhan Mishra said on Sunday.
The raids at the four premises started at around 10 pm on Saturday and continued till around 5 am on Sunday.
“During the raid at one of the restaurant and bars, as many as 67 women hailing from Assam, Bengal and North East and seven children were found in woeful state. The quizzing of the women revealed that they were brought there from Assam, Bengal and North East for sleaze and obscene dances. They didn’t receive any salary, but survived only on monetary tips given to them by visitors. Based on their primary questioning, a case of human trafficking has been registered at Palasia police station under Section 370 of IPC against those operating the restaurant-bar,” the SSP Indore added.
Further, the search at the residential premises of the accused led to live and used cartridges owing to which a case of Arms Act has been registered at Kanadiya police station.
Also, the search at the office of the media group has led to some electronic evidence.
The safes at the concerned officials have been sealed, SSP informed.
She further said that search at another restaurant-bar has revealed that many employees there were employed without proper police verification after which a case u/s 188 of IPC has been registered.
Searches also led to several documents of immovable properties, which don’t belong to the owner of searched premises raising the possibility of these properties being captured after blackmailing the actual owners.
The Indore SSP added that Amit Soni (son of Jitendra Soni) has been detained for questioning in the matter.
Journalist bodies condemn searches
Journalist bodies have condemned the late-night searches at the office and premises of Jitendra Soni in Indore.
A delegation of journalists handed over memorandum (addressed to the CM) to the SDM in Ujjain in which it was mentioned the raids were aimed at “intimidating” the fourth pillar of democracy.
The senior journalists Association of Indian Journalists (AIJ), National Media Foundation and City Press Club alleged that the searches were aimed at pressurizing the Lokswami group, which was fearlessly exposing the influential people linked to the high-profile honey-trap racket.
The delegation threatened to resort to a massive agitation if the cases registered on Saturday and Sunday were not withdrawn and the equipment seized from the office of the media group not returned.
They also demanded a public apology from the police for the action against the media group.
A meeting was also convened at the Indore Press Club, which condemned the police action on Saturday-Sunday intervening night.