The Chhattisgarh Police on Sunday, 6 March, said that it found pornographic content and sensitive confidential documents in the phone of arrested journalist Nilesh Sharma.
Sharma was arrested on 2 March over a complaint filed by Khilawan Nishad, a self-proclaimed Congress worker, and was charged with Sections 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), 505 (1) (b) (publication of rumour with intent to cause fear or alarm to the public) and 505 (2) (promoting enmity or hatred) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
In a statement issued on Sunday, the police claimed that they found pornographic content, evidence of blackmailing, as well as sensitive confidential documents in Sharma's phone.
"We also found objectionable conversations with people," the statement further read.
Stating that Sharma has been shifted to Bilaspur jail, Prashant Agarwal, Superintendent of Police, Raipur, told The Quint that they had further added Section 67 of the IT Act (punishment for transmitting obscene material electronically), as well as Sections 4 and 5 of PITA Act (Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act) to his charges.
A woman has also allegedly been arrested in connection with the case.
The Complaint Against Sharma
Sharma, the editor of an online media portal called Indiawriters.co.in, authored a column named 'Ghurwa Ke Mati', in which he wrote a series of articles with characters allegedly resembling MLAs and other Congress functionaries of the state.
The complainant Khilawan Nishad claimed that Nilesh Sharma, in his political satire, tried to defame and create a wedge among the Congress party workers in Chhattisgarh.
Meanwhile, Ram Pratap Singh, Congress' spokesperson in Raipur said, "No one is above the law.”
"And moreover, anyone is becoming a journalist now a days by getting a portal registered at Rs 100."Ram Pratap Singh
"If anyone feels that what we are doing is wrong, they are free to come up with their evidences and also to accuse us. But they should have evidence, merely accusing is worthless," he added.
Kin of the Accused: 'Why Is the Government So Afraid of Journalists?'
After his arrest on Wednesday, his brother Ritesh Sharma, who manages the advertising of the portal, had told The Quint that "there was never an incident of fake news on their part and that similar satirical columns were being written during the Raman Singh led BJP regime. It was named 'Mukhiya ke Mukhari' then."
Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh's former chief minister Raman Singh had alleged that Congress party, which promised to enforce a law to protect journalists, was, in fact, targeting them.
'Dictatorial Behaviour': Raipur Press Club
Meanwhile, speaking to The Quint, Praphull Thakur, vice president of Raipur press club, said, "This is purely dictatorial behaviour of the present government. They have arrested a journalist just for writing a political satire, then they have also transferred him to Bilaspur jail from Raipur. After all, what could he have done here in Raipur? Why is the government so afraid of journalists?"
"The Congress government has ties with media owners and are trying to control journalistic freedom like it is being done in Delhi. Journalists are working under huge pressure from the government, directly and indirectly. Over 100 cases have been registered against the journalists across Chhattisgarh in the last 3.5 years of Congress rule. This is undemocratic, they are attempting to silence the media," Praphull further claimed.
The Congress has been vocal about the freedom of journalists and their protection, and had promised to bring in a law to ensure their safety in the state. However, it hasn't been tabled since the party came to power in 2018.