Rajasthan police have shut the case against the media manager of former Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot and a senior journalist working in the state with a leading news channel.
Jaipur police commissioner Anand Srivastava told Outlook that police have closed the case and filed a final report (FR). “No evidence was found against them that could prove them guilty, the police have filed the final report. In the investigation, the police found that the source of the news item published in the media and social media was WhatsApp. It was when police enquired from them it was found that the message was forwarded to them. However, the police were unable to find the source of the WhatApp message and gathered that the message had become viral," Anand Srivastava, Jaipur police commissioner told Outlook.
On October 1, 2020, the FIR was filed on at Jaipur’s Vidhayak Puri police station against Lokendra Singh, the media manager of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and Sharat Kumar, a Rajasthan-based senior journalist working with Aaj Tak news channel, for reporting “phone tapping of Congress MLAs” during their stay in a hotel in Jaisalmer in August 2020 amidst the political crisis in the state.
Interestingly, the FIR was then lodged under various sections of IPC such as Sections 505 (1) (whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report), 505 (2) (statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and section 76 of the Information and Technology Act (the Act allows police to confiscate any kind of gadget related to information sharing).
The Pilot camp had in August made allegations against Rajasthan’s chief minister Ashok Gehlot for tapping the phones of his MLAs who were staying at Jaisalmer's Suryagarh hotel. The Gehlot camp had brought his MLAs to Jaisalmer to secure them against horse trading.
However, the FIR was lodged exactly two months after the political crisis in Rajasthan ended with a truce between Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot. Trouble began in July 2020 after Sachin Pilot and his camp made an open rebellion against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Police had then summoned Lokendra Singh to the police station along with his gadgets (laptop, mobile and computer), which were used for the information dissemination of “phone tapping report”. On December 2, 2020, the Rajasthan High Court stayed any coercive action by police in the phone tapping case against Lokendra Singh, who also owns XYZ news channel.
However, after two months the police have now closed the case. “The case is shut and a Final Report (FR) will now be presented in the court," Om Prakash Matwa, SHO of Vidhayak Puri police station, told Outlook.
The social activists of Rajasthan had earlier condemned the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government for attacking the freedom of the press and free speech governed under article 19 of the Constitution.
People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has said in a statement that the Rajasthan government is exhibiting vindictiveness by lodging an FIR against the two journalists for reporting about phone-tapping incident of MLAs who were rounded up in Jaislamer, by the Congress.