The Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted bail to former Broadcast Audience Research Council Chief Executive Officer Partho Dasgupta in connection with the Television Rating Points scam, reported Live Law. As part of the bail conditions, Dasgupta is required to visit the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police on the first Saturday of every month for six months.
‘The applicant is permitted to execute provisional cash bail of Rs 2 lakh for a period of 6 weeks,” said Justice PD Naik said.
Dasgupta had approached Bombay High Court after his bail application was rejected twice, once on January 6 and then on January 20. The High Court had reserved its verdict on February 16. Dasgupta had sought bail under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on merits as well as on medical grounds.
The Mumbai Police had arrested Dasgupta in connection with its investigation into the Television Ratings Point scam on December 24. The police have alleged that Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami bribed Dasgupta with “lakhs of rupees” to ramp up the news channel’s viewership.
During the hearing, Justice Naik asked about the purported WhatsApp conversation between Goswami and Dasgupta about the Pulwama attack. He asked if a separate offence had been registered after the revelation of the chat. Special Public Prosecutor Shishir Hiray, who made submissions on behalf of the Mumbai Police, informed the court that no separate offence has been registered yet.
During the earlier hearing on February 16, Dasgupta’s two counsels – Senior Advocate Aabad Ponda and Advocate Shardul Singh – mentioned that a voluminous chargesheet has been filed against Dasgupta within the stipulated 60-day period. They contended that if their client’s interrogation and investigation was not completed, the chargesheet against him should not have been filed.
Ponda also argued that the WhatsApp chats between Dasgupta and Goswami mentioned in the chargesheet cannot be a ground to keep the former BARC chief in detention as those were mere “loose talks” between two individuals. He also pointed out to the court that the other accused named in the chargesheet were granted bail or protection from coercive action.
The two counsels also highlighted Dasgupta’s medical condition. They said that the former BARC CEO suffered from severe medical conditions which would cause him difficulty while in judicial custody.
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.