The Mumbai Police have told the Bombay High Court that Republic TV was trying to play “victim” and get the television rating points scam case transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation, The Indian Express reported on Sunday.
In an affidavit filed on March 3 in response to the rejoinder by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, which runs Republic TV, the police pointed out that the news channel was not even presently an accused before the trial court. They sought dismissal of Republic TV’s petition for a line-to-line explanation of the investigation, saying that it was not possible.
“In the present case, the petitioners, who are not presently accused before trial court, have placed material that is neither unimpeachable in nature, nor is part of record before the trial court,” the police said in the affidavit. “Investigating agencies cannot be called upon to place line-by-line denials, that too in a case where investigation is admittedly ongoing.”
Republic TV had in December moved the Bombay High Court seeking quashing of the first information report against the news channel and the chargesheet in the TRP case.
In its affidavit, the police said that the petitioner was trying to create confusion in the case by involving the proceedings of other FIRs – a 2018 abetment to suicide case and the Bandra migrants gathering case. These cases have not yet reached a conclusion, the police pointed out. “These are independent offences and should not be seen from the prism of the imaginative and self-serving argument of vendetta as professed by the petitioners in the subject proceedings,” the affidavit said.
The police submitted that Republic TV says there is no case against it at all and has sought the quashing of the FIR. On the other hand, the police said, the news channel states that the investigation in the case is within the domain of Telecom and Regulatory Authority of India and so it should be transferred to the CBI. Hence, the petitioner shows a contradiction in its claims, the police added.
The ARG Outlier Media and Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami had alleged in its petition seeking to quash the FIR that one of the employees of the firm was subjected to custodial torture. Ghanshyam Singh, Republic TV’s distribution head, was arrested on November 10 and “tortured, beaten and harassed in custody”, the plea had alleged.
The channel had also sought protection for all its employees from the “malicious witch hunt” allegedly being carried out by the Maharashtra government. It claimed the police was working in a “pre-determined manner to falsely implicate” Goswami and others from ARG Media by “influencing witnesses, and extracting false statements against the petitioners”.
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.
The Mumbai Police had arrested BARC’s former Chief Executive Officer Dasgupta in connection with its investigation into the TRP scam on December 24. The police had alleged that Goswami bribed Dasgupta with “lakhs of rupees” to ramp up the news channel’s viewership. Dasgupta was March 2 granted bail by the Bombay High Court.