Fake News Case: Delhi Police Searches Houses Of Editors, Office Of The Wire

Two days after the Delhi Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the digital news platform, a team of Crime Branch officials conducted searches at the houses of four editors of the organisation – including its founder and editor-in-chief, Siddharth Varadarajan.

NEW DELHI | Updated: 01 November, 2022 1:51 am IST
The crime branch of the Delhi Police searched The Wire's offices as well as the homes of its four editors

The long arm of the law finally knocked at the doors of The Wire for publishing ‘fake’ news about Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) IT cell chief Amit Malviya.

Two days after the Delhi Police registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the digital news platform, a team of Crime Branch officials conducted searches at the houses of four editors of the organisation – including its founder and editor-in-chief, Siddharth Varadarajan.

The team from the Crime Branch remained at Varadarajan’s house, located at BK Dutt Colony in Lodhi Colony, for around two hours. They left along with his electronic gadgets, like laptops and mobile phones.

Meanwhile, a separate team from the department also searched the offices of The Wire and the residences of its two editors – Sidharth Bhatia and MK Venu – and deputy editor and executive news producer Jahnavi Sen.

The cops seized at least half a dozen mobile phones, laptops, other electronic gadgets, and documents.

The teams remained at the residences of Varadarajan, Venu and Jahanvi till 7.30 pm. However, at the office, the police personnel remained till 9.30 pm, a police officer said.

An FIR under sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 471 (fraudulently using the document), 500 r/w (punishment for defamation), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code was registered at the Crime Branch on Saturday.

Malviya had given a written complaint to the police against The Wire and its senior editors on charges of defamation and cheating for its reportage alleging his role in the removal of Instagram posts critical of the party.

In the letter to the Delhi special commissioner of police (crime), Malviya alleged that the online news organisation published reports based on forged documents with the intention of harming his reputation.

He had said the company had “forged documents with a view to maligning and tarnishing his reputation”.

On the other hand, police said that their investigations are underway. As of now, they have not questioned any of the accused, but in the coming days, they will be called for questioning.

Earlier this month, The Wire published two sensational reports, claiming that Malviya enjoyed X-Check privileges, which let him report any post on Instagram, the photo-sharing platform owned by Meta.

The reports claimed that the posts flagged by him were destined to be removed from the platform without any review.

Apart from The Wire, the complaint also lists its editors Varadarajan, Bhatia, Venu and deputy editor and executive news producer Sen under sections 420, 468, 469, 471,50 read with 120B and 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Earlier this week, Malviya announced that he would be filing civil and criminal proceedings against the news website.

“After consultation with my lawyers and seeking their advice, I have decided to file criminal and civil proceedings against The Wire,” Malviya said in a statement on October 27.

“Not only will I be setting the criminal process in motion, but I will also sue them in a civil court seeking damages as they forged documents with a view to maligning and tarnishing my reputation,” Malviya stated.

The Wire came under severe criticism as experts raised multiple questions related to the authenticity and source of its reports, forcing it to halt its series on the Meta news stories.

Later, the website announced the setting up of an internal audit panel and issued an apology to its readers, admitting that its reports did not go through multiple editing checks and verification of the documents it claimed to have received from a source in Meta.

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