Raj Kundra, actor Shilpa Shetty’s husband and the co-owner of Viaan Industries with her, is currently in jail in connection to creating and selling pornographic videos. He was arrested on July 19 and continues to remain in police custody after multiple rejections of his bail plea.
A Magistrate Court in Mumbai rejected Kundra’s bail plea for the third time on August 10 after denying him bail twice earlier on July 23 and July 27. When opposing his bail, the Mumbai Police had listed out 19 reasons to extend his custody, including the possibility that he could tamper with the evidence, influence witnesses, and even flee the country as he is a British citizen.
Earlier in July, the police had said they had not found any active role of Shetty in the case, but the investigations are ongoing.
What is the case?
Kundra has been accused of creating pornographic videos under the pretext of producing short films for OTT platforms and distributing these explicit videos on apps such as Hotshots.
According to the Crime Branch, the pornographic content thus filmed was sent to a UK production company named Kenrin – registered there by Kundra’s brother-in-law from a former marriage, Pradeep Bakshi – and then uploaded on various apps using foreign IP addresses to evade Indian law.
So far, 11 people, including Kundra, have been arrested in connection to the case.
What are the charges?
The accused have been booked under IPC Sections 354(C) (Voyeurism), 292, 293 (Sale of obscene content), and 420 (Cheating) and Sections 66E, 67, 67A (transmission of sexually explicit material) of the IT Act and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.
According to Indian laws, the selling and distribution of pornographic material is considered illegal. Despite the Supreme Court refusing to block pornographic websites, the Indian government issued an order in 2015 to block several such websites.
What does the Mumbai Police Crime Branch have to say in the case?
Though the case traces back to February, Kundra was only arrested as the “key conspirator” in the case in July after the Mumbai Police Crime Branch found sufficient evidence against him during the course of the investigation.
The Mumbai Police, who arrested Kundra after a raid of his Viaan office in Mumbai, said they found incriminating evidence, including agreement papers, emails, accounts, WhatsApp chats and pornographic clips, during the search. It was only after the arrest of Umesh Kamat, an associate of Kundra, that the latter’s role in the porn racket became clear and Kundra was eventually arrested after several hours of interrogation, the police added.
Joint Commissioner of Mumbai Police Milind Bharambe said the accused were found to have lured aspiring actors with promises of roles in films and web series, and later forced them into pornography. “They were asked to perform ‘bold’ scenes that turned into semi-nude and nude scenes against their wishes,” he said.
While the accused earned Rs 2-3 lakhs per video, the actors were paid merely Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000, officials said.
The police have also appealed to the victims in this case to come forward to the Crime Branch and register a complaint.
Who else is related to the case?
The names of actors Sherlyn Chopra and Poonam Pandey, and actor and producer Gehana Vasisth have surfaced multiple times in relation to this case.
Vasisth, who was earlier arrested in this case in March, was later summoned by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch for questioning in August. She has been constantly supporting Kundra through her Instagram page and has been claiming that the videos are not porn but ‘erotica’.
A few days after Kundra’s arrest, on July 22, Chopra shared a video on Twitter in which she claimed that she was the first person to give a “neutral” statement on the case to the investigating team of the Maharashtra Cyber Cell in March. Later, on August 6, Chopra was summoned by the Property Cell of the Mumbai Crime Branch for questioning in connection to the case.
Earlier, in 2019, Pandey had filed a complaint with the police and she later moved the Bombay High Court in February 2020 to file a case against Kundra and his associates, accusing them of illegally using her content and circulating her number on her app. According to Pandey, her app was being managed by Kundra’s company at the time. Denying the allegations, one of Kundra’s associates had said that the company had terminated the agreement it had signed with Pandey as the videos uploaded by her were “obscene, erotic and objectionable.”
Another similar case ongoing against Kundra
An FIR was registered against Kundra in October 2020 by the Cyber Cell in connection with the broadcasting of nude erotic content on an OTT platform.
After he was arrested in the similar 2021 case, Kundra filed for protection from arrest on the other case citing that the allegations in the chargesheet filed in the 2021 case and the one from the 2020 FIR are identical.
Kundra was granted interim protection from arrest in the 2020 case until August 25 by the Bombay High Court, while the court awaits a response from the prosecution.