Mumbai cyber police have arrested a Delhi-based lawyer for posting videos in which he propounded the theory that celebrity manager Disha Salian (28) was gangraped and murdered by a few celebrities and a politician from Maharashtra. Salian was celebrity manager to late actor Sushant Singh Rajput. The arrest is the latest instance of a pushback against the rising tide of fake news and toxic messaging on social media platforms.
A police probe showed Salian died by suicide on June 9 in a Malad highrise where her fiancé resided. Suspect Vibhor Anand, 31, who continued to post defamatory content despite warnings from a city court, was picked up from his Delhi home and brought to Mumbai late Thursday night and produced before the Esplanade Court the next day.
The court sent Vibhor to police custody till October 19 after he was booked under IPC sections 500 (defamation), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), 504 (insult), 505 (2) (mischief), 509 (insult the modesty of any woman) and under the IT Act section 67 (publishing or transmitting obscene material).
Vibhor’s Twitter account @vibhor_anand was blocked and suspended in September, said DCP (crime) Akbar Pathan. He shifted to another handle. Hours before his arrest, Vibhor tweeted from @OfficeofVA, “Mumbai Police Cyber Crime team is in Delhi to meet me. Today is 15th October. So, Mumbai Police is finally here to Arrest me… See you soon @CPMumbaiPolice”.
His lawyer Hitesh Patel said, “The FIR is politically motivated, my client has just expressed his views.”
At least 14 others who posted similar content, including photos and videos through Twitter, have been shown as wanted in the case. The complaint which led to the arrest was filed by a 27-year-old Mumbai-based lawyer on August 12. She came across the content with links to videos that were tweeted, attacking well-known figures, police and Maharashtra government.
Vibhor allegedly continued circulating such content despite Bombay Civil Court in September directing him and the others to immediately take down the defamatory posts. The order came on a suit by an actor-producer (whose name was dragged into the Salian case). Despite the order, Vibhor kept naming the actor.
Cyber police had similarly arrested on September 28 a physical trainer from Faridabad, Pradeep Choudhary alias Saahil (33), for posting conspiracy theories based on a probe he claims to have carried out on the deaths of late actor Sushant Singh and his ex-celebrity manager Salian. Choudhary was tracked down through the internet protocol address used to upload the offensive content on YouTube. The case was registered on August 22.
In recent months, state cyber police has mounted a pushback against the torrent of hate speech, fake news and denigrating messages about public figures on social media. Traction gained by toxic messaging and conspiracy theories in the wake of Sushant Singh’s suicide have led to more monitoring of social media platforms. Some YouTube channels on the incident have drawn millions of views.
As reported by TOI on September 28, cyber police in Maharashtra blocked at least 4,617 posts on platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook since fake news began flooding the net in the wake of the lockdown announced in March-end. In all, 644 cases have been filed across 44 stations.
Cyber lawyer, Dr Prashant Mali said the IT Act 2000 should be amended with immediate effect and should include a section that will explicitly deal with fake news. “At present, there is no specific section that sternly deals with the rising cases of fake news combined with offensive videos and content uploaded to create communal tension or spread hate,” he said.