According to Head Lines Today and Times of India, Bharti ran a business on the web that many allege was "unethical" and operated in the "grey zone". His name is linked to a tech firm that spammed website owners and tried to make them pay for directory services they never solicited, said a TOI report.
However, Bharti denied any wrongdoing. On Twitter, he got into defensive mode and hit out at Headlines Today for running a 'one-sided news'. "HeadlinesToday 's tearing hurry to run one sided story without confirming the facts with me is baffling", he tweeted.
Headlines Today is threatening to run a baseless, malicious and defamatory story on me without giving me a fair opportunity to respond.
Headlines Today is threatening to run a baseless, malicious and defamatory story on me without giving me a fair opportunity to respond.— Adv. Somnath Bharti (@attorneybharti) February 7, 2014
He said that an associate was behind the spamming business and once he got to know of the "unethical" practices, he claims to have distanced himself from the person concerned.
Records of Bharti's involvement with this spam business date back to 2003-04, says TOI report.
He was associated with a company called Topsites LLC that worked out of Malviya Nagar. In those days website administrators - also called webmasters - often registered with the Open Directory. Topsites.us allegedly copied data from the directory and its Malviya Nagar office called or emailed the webmasters, and said they were registered free, for now. But they'd have to pay if they wanted to continue listing.
Once those emails/calls became frequent, webmasters on virtual forums began wondering what Topsites was and who owned it. In 2004, Conrad Longmore, a UK website owner and an Open Directory editor, began connecting the dots and started trawling WHOIS records -- an online database that provides records of who registered a site and where it is hosted.
Topsites LLC also drew fire from Dan Balsam, a US lawyer known for suing spammers. This was after over 24 spam emails landed in his mailbox in 2003-04. "Dan filed a lawsuit in June 2004 against a number of defendants, including a man named Somnath Bharti, who apparently operated an entity named Topsites LLC," Timothy Walton, Balsam's lawyer told TOI. He said that the lawsuit resulted in an out-of-court settlement. The spammers agreed to pay $5,000 and promised not to spam Balsam.
Although Bharti stoutly denied involvement with Topsites LLC, a TOI check showed the directory service was indeed run out of a Delhi office. A person who worked for Topsites "customer support" in 2005, but didn't want to be named, claimed that Bharti managed the business.
The law minister's election affidavit mentions Madgen that also operates out of Malviya Nagar. It says he owns shares in the company. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs website shows the firm was registered in 2002 and lists firstname.lastname@example.org as its email contact.