Four media persons arrested on charge of blackmailing doctor

They allegedly accused a sonologist of conducting sex-determination test

Published - March 27, 2019 11:42 pm IST - Vijayapura

Four media persons have been arrested for allegedly blackmailing and extorting a sonologist and falsely accusing him of conducting a sex-determination test in Vijayapura. In all, eight people have been named in the case, including a woman who tried to convince the victim, Dr. Kiran Oswal, to reveal the gender of her child.

The arrested are Prasanna Deshpande, district reporter of ‘Suvarna’ TV channel; Sangamesh Kumbar, cameraman of the same channel; Basavaraj Lagali, reporter of Kannada tabloid ‘Hai Bangalore’; and Ravi Bisnal, reporter of tabloid ‘Sangram’. The police have also booked a case against the woman, Mallamma Biradar. Two others are on the run, and the eighth is an unnamed accused.

Superintendent of Police Prakash Nikam told reporters on Wednesday that the accused first contacted Mallamma, who was allegedly pregnant, to project herself as a woman who wanted a sex-determination test done since she had three daughters already. Following instructions, the woman visited Dr. Oswal and requested a test, but the sonologist refused on the grounds that it was illegal. Instead, he prescribed some vitamins.

According to the police, the woman left the hospital and met the media persons who were waiting outside.

They allegedly barged into Dr. Oswal’s cabin and accused him of conducting the test. Despite his denials, they forcibly put some money into his pocket and asked the cameraman to start shooting.

They then demanded ₹50 lakh not to air the footage on the TV channel.

“Finally, with negotiations, the demand went down to ₹10 lakh. They took away ₹1 lakh from the doctor’s pocket, and asked him to pay the remaining ₹9 lakh later,” Mr. Nikam said.

The doctor, refusing to yield to the blackmail, filed a complaint with the APMC police station, and a plan was formed to nab the accused.

“The doctor called one of the reporters, and set up a meeting at a hotel to handover the cash. The police, waiting in plain clothes, arrested the culprits just as they accepted the money. Their car and mobile phones were also seized,” he said.

The arrests were made on Tuesday and the accused were remanded in judicial custody. They have been booked for extortion, threatening, trespassing etc. Two more accused, Ningangouda Patil and Asha Jadage, are said to be absconding.

The team, led by Additional Superintendent of Police B.S. Nemegouda, has been formed to investigate the case, Mr. Nikam said.

‘Suvarna’ channel announced it had relieved Deshpande from service.

Second case in a fortnight

This is the second case in less than a fortnight where a journalist was caught attempting to blackmail a doctor. On March 20, Hemanth Kashyap, who worked with Kannada news channel ‘Public TV’ (who has since been dismissed) was arrested for allegedly blackmailing Padma Shri awardee, Dr. Ramana Rao B., with a video clip, which he threatened to make public if the doctor did not pay up. Kashyap was remanded in judicial custody and is currently out on bail.

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