Republic TV set to sue Mumbai police commissioner for defamation

Neither Republic nor Arnab are mentioned in the TRP row FIR, the Bombay HC said

NEW DELHI: Accusations have flown thick and fast between the Mumbai police and its commissioner Param Bir Singh and the Republic Media Network over the past few months. The rancour between the two parties only intensified after the former accused the latter of rigging its viewership ratings by compromising the BARC sample and paying off viewers to watch the network.

Now, Republic TV founder and editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has directed his legal team Phoenix Legal to initiate a suit against Singh seeking Rs 200 crore in damages. Rs 100 crore of this amount is for damaging the newsman’s reputation, while the other Rs 100 crore is for harming the network’s credibility.

Republic says its legal teams are in the process of filing the defamation suit against the police commissioner. The company decided to take this step following the revelation that the FIR related to TRP manipulation does not include the name of Arnab Goswami and Republic Media.

In the Bombay High Court hearing today, the two-man bench of justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik noted that Republic TV has not yet been arraigned as an accused in the FIR filed by the Mumbai police.

Arguing on behalf of the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai police, senior advocate Kapil Sibal said, "There is no mention of Republic TV in the FIR. So how can it be quashed? The FIR relates to an offence allegedly committed in relation to which several improprieties and illegalities by several may be found. That investigation is still in the nascent stage."

He further mentioned that the press conference held by the Mumbai police commissioner exposing the TRP gaming racket did not refer to Goswami in particular, and that only Republic TV was mentioned.

Harish Salve, arguing on behalf of Republic Media, assured that in case summons are issued to Arnab Goswami, the petitioner would cooperate with the authorities. He also urged the court to stay the investigation and restrain police from taking any coercive action against the petitioners pending hearing of their petition.

Salve sought the court to grant Goswami protection from arrest. But Sibal rebutted, stating that no such relief can be granted in the matter since Goswami has not been arraigned as an accused as of now.

The Republic team also stated that it is filing a contempt petition against the special executive magistrate and assistant police commissioner Sudhir Jambwadekar, on account of the fact that he initiated chapter proceedings with respect to FIRs that have been suspended by the orders of the Bombay high court.

On 8 October, Singh addressed a press conference where he claimed that the police had busted a TRP manipulation scam that involved various channels including Republic TV.

Republic has consistently maintained that it has done nothing of that sort and that Singh has it in for the channel on account of its founder and editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami airing “exposés” of the commissioner’s alleged laxity in performing his law-keeping duties.

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