Former Assistant Commissioner of Police Iqbal Shaikh has filed a civil case seeking to restrain Republic TV and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami from airing any material related to the Television Rating Points scam, Live Law reported on Tuesday. The Mumbai Police have accused Republic TV, along with Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi, of manipulating TRPs.
Shaikh has also sought Rs 5 lakh as damages, saying the “defamatory reports” published against the Mumbai Police have resulted in his mental agony. The plea, filed through advocate Abha Singh, said that Republic TV and its Hindi news channel Republic Bharat have indulged in a “smear campaign” against the Mumbai Police.
The plea also claimed that the defendant, Arnab Goswami, can not “be granted the liberty to discuss his own case and arbitrate it in his own TV channels by defaming Mumbai Police” when an investigation was underway.
Shaikh alleged that Goswami was conducting debates and airing stories that might influence the investigation, according to the Hindustan Times. “The plaintiff submits that the Defendant No. 1 has transgressed his limits as an owner of two most popular TV Channels and has started pursuing his own agenda by being the Editor-in-Chief and by blurting out large sermons about his own case which is under probe by a statutory body,” the plea said.
Shaikh also alleged that Republic TV was trying to topple the investigation by launching a libellous campaign against the Mumbai Police, citing statements Goswami used against the force’s chief Param Bir Singh.
It also said that Goswami is the owner and director of the company that runs the news channels, its editor-in-chief and the main anchor of the debates. The suit argued that this was in “open contempt” to the Press Council of India guidelines, which state that the owner/management has to be distinct from the editor.
The case will be taken up for hearing on October 21.
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.
Last week, the Broadcast Audience Research Council decided to 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.