NOIDA (UP), Aug 24: Five men, who identified themselves as journalists, have been booked under the Gangsters Act for allegedly putting pressure on police personnel to serve their ends and threatening to circulate “motivated” news stories to malign the image of the cops, officials said here on Saturday.
Four of them, identified as Sushil Pandit, Udit Goyal, Chandan Rai and Nitesh Pandey, have been arrested, they said.
The five worked as a gang with a motive to have government officials, especially policemen, work for their agenda, mostly to help accused in police cases, in lieu of money, the police and administration officials here said.
“Accused Pandit, Goyal, Rai and Pandey have been arrested, while their fifth partner Raman Thakur is absconding,” District Magistrate, Gautam Buddh Nagar, B N Singh said in a joint press conference with Senior Superintendent of Police Vaibhav Krishna.
Pandit, the leader of the gang, and Goyal were held from Noida, while Rai was picked up from Ghaziabad and Pandey was taken into custody from Lucknow late last night.
“Using their influence as mediapersons, the gang was putting undue pressure on officials to prevent them from carrying out their lawful duty,” Singh said.
He said the officials, who would not toe their line, were targeted by the gang, which disseminated content to malign their image and cited the headlines of a couple of their news stories which accused the police force in Noida and other parts of Uttar Pradesh of caste bias in transfers.
“They would put out motivated news stories to malign their image, create a negative perception about such officials, including IPS officers, by circulating content on their news portals, social media and WhatsApp,” Singh said.
“With their use of news portals and social media they have the power to influence perception of lakhs of people in one go and they were spreading misinformation, wrong information and that directly impacts law and order. They posted content on their portals raising questions on transfer system in the police.
“Their claims were unverified and wrong. The postings were done based on merit as per procedures and not due to caste and religion basis, as was claimed in their stories,” Singh said.
SSP Krishna said the accused have been arrested and none of them is an accredited journalist.
“Four ‘so-called’ journalists have been arrested and none of them is an accredited journalist. They had a gang which used to blackmail officers, especially police officers, through different web portals/social media,” he said.
An FIR has been registered against them under the Uttar Pradesh Gangsters Act and the Anti-Social Activities (Prevention) Act, 1986, Singh told reporters.
They have been accused of misusing “freedom of expression” by running “baseless news” targeting police officials and “trying to create a divide” among the force based on “reports on caste bias”, according to the FIR details.
In a brief interaction with reporters after the press conference, the accused refuted the allegations and said they would move the higher court to challenge their arrest.
Three of them were caught red-handed in January this year in a bribery case related to the arrest of the then SHO of Sector 20 police station in Noida.
“They were trying to hamper the prosecution of this case by spreading factless campaigns on social media,” Krishna said.
Thakur had a criminal case related to cheating, Arms Act and IT Act in 2015 also.
“So in all, four of the accused have a criminal record. Out of them, Chandan Rai was booked for a motorcycle theft in 2007 at Ghaziabad’s Sahibabad police station and a stolen motorcycle was recovered from him,” he added.
Three cars, including a Toyota Fortuner, have been recovered from Rai, whose name has cropped up earlier also in several cases of corruption, the SSP said.
The four accused were later on Saturday produced before the District and Sessions Court at Surajpur, which remanded them in four-days police custody, officials said, adding that a cash reward of Rs 25,000 has been announced on the absconding person. (PTI)