The Bombay High Court on Wednesday said that there was nothing substantial on record against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami even after three months of investigation by the Mumbai Police in the alleged Television Rating Points scam, Live Law reported.
A bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale asked Chief Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare how much more time they would take to complete the inquiry against Goswami and ARG Outlier Media, the company that owns Republic TV channels. “The investigation is going on for the last three months,” Justice Shinde said. “We don’t see anything that has surfaced on record to array the petitioners as accused.”
Thakare informed that the police was still collecting evidence in the case, and wanted to continue the probe.
The court asked why Goswami had not been named as an accused in the first information report, according to The Hindu. It also directed the prosecutor to inform it by Thursday if they plan to do so.
Justice Pitale said at best, the company and Goswami, were only suspects as of now. “You are not accused,” he said. “You say quash the proceeding, but, what can be quashed and against whom, when you are not accused?”
The court said the Maharashtra government must be reasonable and if police did not find anything incriminating against Goswami and others, it must accept it and make a statement to the effect, PTI reported.
It added that the investigation cannot go on “forever”. “ED, CBI, state police, all should act with reasonableness, objective assessment,” the judges said. “They should not appear to be another form of trouble.”
The High Court was hearing final arguments in the petition seeking to quash the FIR and two subsequent chargesheets against ARG Outlier Media, its employees, and Goswami. It also sought protection from coercive action and transfer of the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation or any other independent agency.
Senior Advocate Ashok Mundargi, appearing for the petitioners, claimed that the whole design of the Mumbai Police was to keep the prosecution open-ended in the case.
“At which point will your officer say that there is reason to believe that there is reason to arrest [Goswami and other employees],” the judges asked. “You cannot have it both ways. You cannot not make them accused and then say you have evidence. If you have evidence make them accused so that they know what kind of relief can be granted against them.”
However, the judges clarified that they have not formed any opinion about the case. “Don’t misunderstand,” they added.
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.
Since the beginning, the Republic TV has denied any wrongdoing on their part, with its executives filing a flurry of lawsuits challenging the cases against them. They alleged that the whole case was malafide and they had been targeted for their reportage about the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and the Palghar lynching case.