The Mumbai Police on Wednesday informed the Bombay High Court that they have found more evidence against Republic TV and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in the Television Rating Points manipulation scam, Live Law reported.
Senior Counsel Kapil Sibal, representing the Mumbai Police, told the bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik that they wanted to take coercive action against the accused. The police had earlier agreed to an undertaking that no such action will be taken.
The division bench was hearing a petition filed by AGR Outlier Media Private Limited – the company that runs Republic TV. The plea sought to quash the first information report in the TRP scam case.
“We have found evidence on record through investigation with BARC [Broadcast Audience Research Council],” Sibal told the High Court. “Milords may record my statement that I do not wish to continue my statement.”
The Mumbai Police, however, agreed to continue the undertaking till January 15 after the lawyer for AGR Outlier sought adjournment as the senior counsel representing the company was not available on Wednesday due to a medical emergency.
The Bombay High Court extended relief to the channel and its employees from coercive action until the next hearing on January 15, according to The Indian Express.
The police also informed the court that former Broadcast Audience Research Council Chief Executive Officer Partho Dasgupta was denied bail by a Mumbai court, which had observed that he “manipulated TRP for particular TV channels” during his tenure as the body’s chief.
Sibal said this was a significant development in the case. He added that the police would submit a status report by the next date of hearing.
The Mumbai Police had arrested Dasgupta on December 24 and told the Mumbai court, hearing his bail plea, that Goswami had allegedly bribed the then BARC chief with “lakhs of rupees” to ramp up the news channel’s viewership.
Meanwhile, in another case, the bench granted three weeks to Goswami and another accused Feroze Sheikh to change their pleas and challenge cognisance of the chargesheet filed in a case regarding the alleged abetment to suicide of interior designer Anvay Naik in 2018.
The Bombay High Court had on December 16 allowed the Republic TV editor-in-chief to challenge the chargesheet. Goswami, Shaikh and Nitish Sarda are accused in Naik’s abetment to suicide case. Naik and his mother, Kumud Naik, died by suicide in Alibaug in May 2018. A suicide note purportedly written by Anvay Naik, who was the managing director of Concorde Designs, said that Goswami and the two others had not paid Rs 5.40 crore that they owed to him in exchange for services rendered. Concorde Designs is a Mumbai-based architectural and interior designing firm.
The TRP scam
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”. Channels were accused of rigging their TRPs by bribing some households to watch it.
On December 25, Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe had said that a forensic audit report of the rating agency’s data had revealed that numbers were being manipulated at least since 2016. Bharambe said that the manipulations which were done to a greater extent for English and Telugu news channels, resulted in showing Republic TV as the top ranked channel, in terms of ratings.
Several Republic TV officials have already been questioned in the case. Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were the other channels named during the preliminary investigation.