Republic TV on Monday said that it will sue Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh for Rs 200 crore for allegedly damaging its reputation by linking it to the Television Rating Points scam.
The news channel added that it will file a contempt petition against Special Executive Magistrate and the Assistance Police Commissioner Sudhir Jambwadekar “on account of the fact that he initiated chapter proceedings with respect to the FIRs [first information reports] that have been suspended by the Bombay High Court,” it said in a statement.
Republic TV’s announcement came hours after the Bombay High Court noted that the channel’s Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami had not yet been arraigned as an accused in the FIR filed by the Mumbai Police. The court told the Mumbai Police that Goswami should be summoned if he has to be named as an accused in the case.
Republic TV claimed that the court’s observation was a victory for it. “The Maharashtra Government’s admission in Bombay High Court today comes as a huge victory to Republic TV that has consistently maintained there was no malpractice by the Network,” it said. The channel also said that it was in the process of filing a defamation suit against Singh.
Republic TV has repeatedly claimed that the summons to its top editors in the TRP scam were part of a “desperate witch hunt” by Singh. They have also accused the police of pursuing an agenda against free press.
The TRP row
A fake TRP racket was uncovered earlier in October when the 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”. Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were accused of TRP manipulation during the preliminary investigation.
The Broadcast Audience Research Council had said on Thursday that it will pause weekly ratings for news channels for three months and review its measurement system, amid a row over the alleged manipulation of TRP.
On October 14, 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.
The Mumbai Crime Branch said on October 12 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.
Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani had appeared before the Mumbai for questioning in case on October 11. The TV channel’s Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram was supposed to appear before the police on the previous day, but he asked for a reschedule citing “personal commitments”.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, and a parliamentary panel on information technology have noted that TRP measures are not in tune with the current technologies. They also observed that the English news space, because of its minuscule size, is particularly susceptible to manipulation.