A day after a face-off between Chhattisgarh police and their Uttar Pradesh counterparts to arrest TV news anchor Rohit Ranjan for playing a doctored clip of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, a team of Raipur cops went to his house in Ghaziabad again on Wednesday, but he was not found there, a senior official said.
"Ranjan is absconding and efforts are on to trace him," Raipur's Senior Superintendent of Police Prashant Agrawal told PTI.
Earlier, the Raipur district police from the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh had gone to Zee News anchor Ranjan's home in Indirapuram area near Delhi on Tuesday early morning, but he was instead arrested by the Noida police who released him on bail later in the night.
“A Raipur police team reached Ranjan's house in Ghaziabad around 9 am again on Wednesday, but his house was found locked from outside. The team is trying to trace his whereabouts,” Agrawal.
“The Noida police, who released him on bail, should have informed the Raipur police, as the team had gone to Sector-20 police station (in Noida) on Tuesday, asking for the whereabouts of the accused. They did not tell us anything about him and late Tuesday evening released a press note stating that he is released on bail. Now, he is absconding,” the official claimed.
A statement issued by the Gautam Budh Nagar police in the BJP-governed UP stated, "Zee News anchor Rohit Ranjan was brought to Noida from his residence in Indirapuram for questioning in the case lodged under IPC's section 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes)."
"After interrogation, he was arrested on the basis of evidence. He has been released on bail as the sections against him are bailable offences. Further investigation in the case is underway,” the statement said.
A case was registered against Ranjan and others at Zee News on Sunday at Civil Lines Police station in Chhattisgarh's capital Raipur for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups and outraging religious feelings of people, based on a complaint by Congress MLA Devendra Yadav, Agrawal said.
In his complaint, Yadav alleged that a video, in which Rahul Gandhi described those attacking his Wayanad office as children and said he had no ill-will against them, was "mischievously" used by the TV channel on July 1 to suggest he was forgiving the killers of Udaipur tailor Kanhaiya Lal.
Yadav, who represents Bhilai Nagar constituency in Chhattisgarh, has accused the director and chairman of Zee News and??? its chief executive officer of conspiring to spread fabricated and fake news against Gandhi in a bid to incite communal riots and disturb social harmony, the official said.
Ranjan and others were booked under various IPC sections, including 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class), 467 (forgery), 469 (forgery to harm reputation) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace), the SSP said.
Based on the FIR, the Raipur police team, led by City Superintendent of Police (Vidhan Sabha area) Udyan Behar, had reached Ranjan's house, but was not able to arrest him, he said.
The SSP had on Tuesday claimed that the Noida police obstructed Ranjan's arrest procedure by taking him away with them.
On July 2, a day after the video was aired, Ranjan had apologised for mistakenly playing Gandhi's statement out of context by linking it with the Udaipur murder case.
"It was a human error for which our team is apologetic. We apologise for it," he had tweeted in Hindi.
An FIR has also been lodged in Chhattisgarh's Bilaspur district against five BJP leaders, including three MPs and one MLA, in connection with Gandhi's doctored video.