Names of several Bhopal-based journalists have emerged in the high-profile honey-trap and extortion racket of Madhya Pradesh.
The journalists allegedly having a role in the case, include a resident editor of a Hindi newspaper, a cameraman of a news channel and an owner of a regional satellite TV channel.
The journalists were apparently negotiating deals with bureaucrats and honey-trap kingpin Shweta Jain, acting as key conduits, sources said.
On the involvement of journalists in the case, spokesperson for ruling Congress in the state KK Mishra said whoever is involved in the scandal would be booked as soon as evidence is gathered by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
Mishra, considered close to Chief Minister Kamal Nath, was the first to highlight the case.
"As far as I know, a few journalists, close to bureaucrats, negotiated deals on behalf of the officials. They were not directly involved with the accused, arrested in the case," said Mishra.
Earlier, BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya alleged that he has specific information about three-four journalists who were involved in the blackmailing scandal. The SIT has not yet denied Vijarvargiya's allegation about the involvement of journalists in a case, which has rocked the central Indian state.
After bureaucrats and politicians, the alleged involvement of journalists in the scandal has added more hype to the case, generating curiosity about the real identities of the accomplices in the crime. On the role of a few journalists in the scandal, editor-in-chief of a prominent Hindi daily published from Indore, Hemant Sharma said for years a small group of journalists in the state capital have been found engaged in striking such shady deals.
"Actually it is a small bunch of so-called journalists, who move in the corridors of power with the sole purpose of extorting money from bureaucrats or politicians involved in corrupt practices. However, as of now, SIT has not named anyone (journalist). I can only say that Shweta and Aarti, used a few journalists in negotiating deals with the bureaucrats or ministers," said Hemant Sharma.
Sources in the SIT revealed to IANS that the investigation at present is focused on ascertaining the role of bureaucrats and other persons (politicians) holding important positions in the government. "The mastermind of the racket, Shweta Jain, her husband Swapnil Jain, and aide Aarti Dayal have already been arrested. During their interrogation, it came to light that people in power, honey trapped by Shweta and Aarti, have funded their NGOs.
Besides, lucrative government contracts were also offered to the Jains in lieu of seeking sexual favours. "If documents of such contracts are traced, we will definitely take action against government servants," said an MP police officer, adding, that "sex-scandal was going on in Bhopal for more than 7-8 years."
Meanwhile, SIT chief Sanjeev Shami told media persons that if evidence suggests that bureaucrats have misused their office in obliging sex-scandal operators, then they will be booked.
Shami, an ADG rank IPS officer of MP cadre, had allegedly put together various teams and assigned them specific tasks. One of the most important tasks was to identify government contracts allotted by bureaucrats or Ministers to the ring leader of sex-scandal.
Once the police establish the misuse of official powers, cases will be registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act against officials and politicians, Shami said.