The Bombay High Court on Wednesday allowed Republic TV’s parent company ARG Outlier to amend their petition against the charge sheet filed by the Mumbai Police in an alleged fake Television Rating Points scam, reported Bar and Bench. The Mumbai Police’s Crime Intelligence Unit on Tuesday filed a charge sheet in a magistrate’s court in the alleged scam.
The original petition sought quashing of the first information report against Republic TV and its employees, including Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, and order for the transfer of the inquiry from the Mumbai Police Crime Branch to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Senior counsel Aabad Ponda, representing the petitioner, asked the court to allow leave to amend the plea, and defer the proceedings in the case for a few days so that the charge sheet can also be challenged. However, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing Maharashtra, also said there should be an application on the grounds on which the charge sheet was challenged so that the state can respond.
“Goswami is an ordinary litigant, not an extraordinary litigant,” Sibal said, according to Bar and Bench. “Every matter of his cannot be fast tracked.”
Following this, the court allowed time till Friday to modify the plea, and provide a copy to the state. The court also did not specify a timing for the next hearing.
The High Court also extended the interim relief, in which it directed the police to summon employees of Hansa Research Group, which is the complainant in the case, for investigation only two days a week for a “reasonable time” till the next hearing, according to The Indian Express.
A fake TRP racket was uncovered in October when the Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group – one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”. Some of the channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it.
Apart from Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were the others named during preliminary investigation. Later, News Nation and Mahamovie channels were also formally named in the case.
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. 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”.
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. In October, the channel had said it would sue Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh for Rs 200 crore for allegedly damaging its reputation by linking it to the case.