The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear a petition filed by Republic TV against the Mumbai Police’s summons to its top editors and executives, in connection with their investigation into the alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points or TRPs, Live Law reported.
The top court allowed the news channel to move the Bombay High Court, adding that “we must have faith in our High Courts”.
The petition was filed by the TV channel’s Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said that it would not be appropriate for the top court to intervene in the case. “It sends a bad message to the HC [High Court],” Chandrachud said. “They’ve been functioning throughout the pandemic.”
The Mumbai Police had opposed the petition filed by Republic TV. In a late night plea, the police accused the channel of abusing law by airing programmes in the case and “intimidating the witnesses”, according to NDTV.
On Wednesday, Republic TV’s Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy and Senior Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor appeared before the crime branch of the Mumbai Police to record their statements in the case.
Republic TV claimed that the summons were part of a “desperate witch hunt” by Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh. The news channel also accused the police of pursuing an agenda against free press.
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- TRP scam: Mumbai Police chief says no vendetta against any channel, complaint filed by private firm
The police said that Republic TV had on October 10 aired a document that purportedly belonged to the Hansa Research Group, a private firm through which ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint about TRP manipulation.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the summoned persons are acquainted with certain facts and circumstances of the document and same is required to be ascertained from them,” the summons stated.
Republic TV claimed that its editors were being asked to reveal their sources, which was a reminder of “Emergency days”.
Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani had appeared before the Mumbai for questioning in case on Sunday. The TV channel’s Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram was supposed to appear before the police on Saturday, but he asked it to be rescheduled, citing “personal commitments”.
Besides Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi have been accused of TRP manipulation during the preliminary investigation.
Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh had on October 8 that an analysis of manipulation of news trends showed a “false narrative” was being spread, especially regarding the investigation into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death.
Republic TV had refuted the allegations of TRP manipulation and accused Mumbai Police of a vendetta. The Mumbai Police, on the other hand, denied any bias in the investigation.
The TRP scam
The Mumbai Crime Branch on Monday said that they had arrested a former Hansa Research employee named Vinay Tripathi from Uttar Pradesh. The officials said that he played a key role in the scam and had paid another accused to manipulate ratings. The police also recorded the statements of two senior officers from Hansa Research.
The police have also arrested the owners of Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi, Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma. They will remain police custody till October 16.
The fake TRP racket came to light when Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. Hansa Research is one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”.
Television Rating Points, or TRPs, is a metric provided to judge what programmes are viewed the most. It gives an index of the choice of the people and also the popularity of a particular channel.