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The controversial past of the man behind the Cobrapost expose

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Pushp Sharma has been arrested twice in two separate cases, including for ‘fabricating’ a ministry’s RTI reply. Sharma has claimed that both were false cases. 

New Delhi: The journalist behind the Cobrapost expose has two criminal cases registered against him, including one accusing him of carrying out fake sting operations.

Pushp Sharma, who claims to be an investigative journalist, is behind the expose, codenamed ‘Operation 136’, which has accused several media groups of striking business deals to promote the Hindutva agenda of the BJP and help polarise voters in the run up to the 2019 elections.

Sharma was arrested twice by the Delhi police — once in 2009 and again in 2016.

In 2009, he was held for carrying out a ‘fraudulent’ sting operation to allegedly extort money from a police officer, while in 2016, he was arrested for allegedly fabricating an RTI response from the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH).

In both cases, the trial is yet to begin.

ThePrint reached out to Sharma several times and left messages but he did not respond to the requests for comment.

In a blog post on, however, Sharma describes himself as the victim of a “witch-hunt”.

“As it often happens, when your stories hurt certain interests, or powerful individuals, it is you who are either hounded or witch-hunted both by the establishment and by the media at large. I am no exception to this phenomenon (sic),” wrote Sharma.

Sharma, who says he is an alumnus of IIM-Bangalore, says the evidence was fabricated in both cases against him.

Asked about the controversial past of Sharma and Cobrapost’s association with him, Aniruddha Bahal, founder and editor-in-chief of, told ThePrint: “We ourselves had put out the story when we did the first part. They are both cases of malicious prosecution. The journalist was employed by several media houses post his 2009 arrest and all reached the same conclusion. In any case it is the conduct of the people he interacted with during the course of Operation 136 that is the issue here.”

‘A compromise that never was’

Police allege that Sharma would fake road accidents and fraudulently carry out sting operations to extort money from police officers. He had allegedly built a whole library of “stings” on police and government officials, to either extort money from them or sell them to media houses.

“Sharma along with his associate, Pankaj Kumar, would fake road accidents. In one such instance, Kumar posed as the complainant alleging that his car was hit from behind by a motorcycle driven by Sharma. The men then called the police and as soon as they arrived, they pretended to have reached a compromise,” an officer explained.

“After reaching a ‘compromise,’ Sharma asked the head constable present there to give him change for Rs 500 so that he could use it to pay Kumar for the damages. The head constable, oblivious that he was being recorded, did as he was asked,” the officer said.

“After a couple of days, Sharma then called the head constable demanding money. Sharma told the officer that he had a clip of him taking money and threatened that it would be aired on TV channels. It was after the officer reported the matter to his seniors that an FIR was registered,” he alleged.

Sharma was arrested on 17 November 2009 after a trap was laid by the Delhi Police. The head constable called him to a location in South Delhi asking him to hand over the tape of the sting in exchange for the money. Sharma was arrested, while allegedly accepting cash from the head constable.

A statement issued by then Deputy Commissioner of Police, South, on 22 November 2009, also says that Sharma and his associate confessed that they had conducted several similar sting operations to extort money in the past.

“The accused disclosed that in the past he has conducted several of similar sting operations. So far two police officials including one head constable and one sub inspector were his target. The same is being investigated,” the statement said.

‘Fabricated RTI reply’

In the second criminal case against him, lodged in 2016, Sharma was arrested on charges of cheating, forgery and promoting enmity between different groups. This was after he allegedly fabricated an RTI response from AYUSH ministry, claiming that the Centre was discriminating against Muslims and denying them jobs as yoga trainers in the ministry.

Sharma at that time was a journalist with the Milli Gazette and quoted the allegedly fabricated RTI in his story that was later challenged by the ministry.

“He had been enquiring about Muslim teachers and trainers recruited by the ministry for foreign assignments during the World Yoga Day last year, to which he claimed that the ministry responded writing that they don’t recruit Muslims. The ministry then filed a formal complaint with the Delhi Police asking them to probe the alleged ‘fake’ RTI query,” a police officer said.

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  1. Will this surgical sting lead to some introspection in media ranks? As the writer of The Wire piece, ‘Forget the Cobra That Stings, We Need to Worry About the Media That Poisons’ argues, “Instead of retreating into a shell of denial, the Indian media needs to use this occasion to stem and reverse the rot which lies exposed.” But that will not happen if the business model of these gargantuan empires continue to remain beyond scrutiny and reform. The Wire ran with the story from the moment Dainik Bhaskar, which prides itself on its “trustworthiness” going by the logo, sought an ex-parte injunction to restrain Cobrapost. Which is just as well, because it is precisely because the mainstream media is what it is, that news portals like this one that don’t engage with acharyas, are emerging as credible news alternatives.

  2. All Hail Acharya Atal!

    By holding up a mirror to those who are meant to hold a mirror to power, Cobrapost’s Acharya Atal has emerged a true guru of our times. Those stung by the Cobrapost expose may scramble for cover, rush for court injunctions and take-down orders, or valiantly pretend that they went along with the Cobrapost sting only in order to sting them back, but the manner in which they succumbed to the Acharya’s gilded plan of peddling media content that reflects a Hindutva-fuelled, opposition-mukt politics indicates that they are by no means unfamiliar with such proposals. So, perhaps, far from being the figment of the Cobrapost’s imagination, such multi-crore allurements may well have become part of the business model of some of the biggest media players of democratic India. The persuasive skills of many an acharya could be behind the hitherto inexplicable discarding of basic journalistic norms that stamps media content today. The Radia Tapes episode, which broke in 2011, had indicated that ‘acharyas’ come in all shapes, sizes, gender, and have been around a while. But the mainstream journalism on view since the run up to the 2014 election and thereafter, which is not just biased but appears to flow directly from the government’s publicity machine, could only have been shaped by multiple acharyas turning on the spigots.

  3. पुष्प शर्मा के ऍफ़ बी वाल से साभार
    “बेशक मुझे एक पेशेवर पत्रकार के रूप मैं शक की निगाह से देखा जाना चाहिए लेकिन क्या इसमें अब भी कोई शक है कि स्टिंग के वीडिओज़ भारत में मीडिया की स्वतंत्रता पर गंभीर शक पैदा करते हैं. दुनिया का सबसे बड़े लोकतंत्र अगर प्रेस की आज़ादी की रैंकिंग में नीचे की ओर जाने लगे तो ये अपने आप में राष्ट्रीय शर्म की बात है. अगर ये आरोप सिद्ध हो जाते हैं तो इसमें कोई शक नहीं है कि भारत इस रैंकिंग में और नीचे चला जाएगा. ये स्टिंग ऑपेरशन उस चुनौती को बयां करता है जिसका ये देश सामना कर रहा है. अब ये एक्सपोज़ दिखाता है कि भारतीय मीडिया डूब रहा है…अब या तो हम डूब जाएं या इसका सामना करें. पत्रकार को गालियां देने से अगर रास्ता बनता है तो उस विकल्प को भी स्वीकार करने को मैं राजी हूँ. “

  4. अब आप समझ सकते हैं दपरिंट वाले शेखर गुप्ता ने पुष्प शर्मा के खिलाफ स्टोरी क्यों करवाई. ताकि शेखर गुप्ता के मालिक को नंगा करने वाले पुष्प शर्मा को सबक सिखाया जा सके. क्यूंकि शेखर गुप्ता ने पेटीएम से पैसा लेकर अपनी कंपनी मैं पेटीएम के मालिक को यानि विजय शेखर को हिस्सेदारी दे रखी है. और पुष्प का अपराध यही उसने पेटीएम के मालिक के भाई जिसके खिलाफ स्टिंग करके पुष्प ने पेटीएम और पीएमओ के रिश्तो का खुलासा किया था तो एक एक साथ दो मालिकों ( विजय शेखर और पीएमओ ) को खुश करने के लिए पुष्प के खिलाफ ये आर्टिकल लिखवाया है.

  5. SheKhar Gupta. one of the promoters of the Print, has been the blue eyed boy of the corporate honchos, and it is no surprise those honchos are making a beeline to fund the Print. Should it mean that Gupta would play a stooge for them in his second innings furthering their interest. What a crap you have written? Shooting the messenger! By the way the Delhi Police has failed to chargesheet him after almost nine years.

    • Even in Ayush RTI case FSL lab submitted its report on 28 April and it gives him clean chit. His laptop was confiscated but he came out clean. He won most reputable IPI award in 2011 but this article is not showing his achievements. Its biased reporting to make him suspicious character.

      Get lost you ThePrint owner SheKher Gupta

  6. नीरव मोदी से पूछा गया इतने हजार करोड़ लेकर क्यों भागा?
    जवाब आया – पी एन बी पर रिवर्स स्टिंग कर रहा था मैं तो ताकी ये देख सकूँ पी एन बी सजग है भी या नहीं.

    टाइम्स और ज़ी से लिंक कर ले दोनों बोल रहे हैं वो पुष्प का रिवर्स स्टिंग कर रहे थे.

  7. If the story is true and sting operation videos undoctored,then his background doesn’t matter. Witch hunting and hounding is common for such whistle blower as we in other such cases like Rana Ayub,Ravish Kumar etc

    • पूरी मीडिआ इंडस्ट्री का पप्पू बनाने वाले पर व्यक्तिगत हमला? शेखर तू सिर्फ टाटा से जाके पैसे मांग. यही तेरी हैसियत है. क्या कभी विनीत जैन के बारे मैं लिखा? क्या वो दूध का धुला है?
      इस आर्टिकल को लिखकर तू टाइम्स से प्रसाद लेना चाह रहा है. पर मिलेगा बाबा जी का ठुल्लू.

  8. पत्रकार पुष्प पर व्यक्तिगत हमले करो कैरेक्टर पर कीचड उछालो और ट्रोल करो उससे स्टिंग ऑपेरशन की आग शायद ठंडी पड़ जाये. लेकिन पुष्प को गलियां देकर क्या स्टिंग का मेसेज गलत साबित होगा? क्या ये सच नहीं पूरा मिडिया दंगे करवाने वाला माहौल बना रहा है. क्या पूरा मिडिया एक एजेंडे को आगे बढ़ाने मैं लगा है. क्या किसी मीडिया ने , सिवाए २ या ३ को छोड़कर सरकार से कभी कड़वे सवाल किये? अचानक से हर चैनल और अख़बार नेताओं को बुलाकर इवेंट करवा रहा है तो क्या वो मिडिया संसथान अपने राजनितिक आका के खिलाफ स्टोरी चलाएगा? देश को अफीम पिलाना बंद करो वरना मित्रों मित्रों करती नशेड़ी पीढ़ी पैदा होगी.

  9. What prevents police from investigating the cases they booked in 2009 and 2016. Any compromise?

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