Bombay HC asks if Mumbai police intends to further probe Republic TV

The court was hearing Republic TV’s plea in the TRP scam case.

New Delhi: The Bombay high court has sought to know from the Mumbai police if it intends to proceed with the investigation against Republic TV and its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, considering that the channel remains a ‘suspect’ on police records, even after filing two chargesheets in connection with the TRP manipulation case.

A bench of justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale also directed special public prosecutor (SPP) Shishir Hiray to inform the court about the time required to complete their investigation in the matter.

"You have been investigating for the last three months. There are two chargesheets, and there seems to be no evidence against them. And this FIR is of October 2020. We are in March 2021," the HC said as per a PTI report. "Why keep the sword hanging on their head? You are not making them an accused also, why so?" asked the bench.

The court raised this query after noting that the police had claimed to have adequate evidence against Goswami and the channel in the alleged TRP scam, yet they have been named only as 'suspects' in the chargesheets.

The bench was responding to submissions made by Ashok Mundargi, the counsel for Goswami and ARG Outlier Media, the company that runs Republic TV channels. "They (police) cannot keep investigating forever. If they have some material against us, they have to show us, they cannot keep playing hot and cold," Mundargi said.

The Mumbai police, however, continued to maintain that they have adequate evidence in the case and that they are still collecting additional evidence. The court said the contention of the petitioners, Goswami and ARG Outlier Media, was that they were always under the fear that some action might be taken against them. The case was adjourned for Thursday.

ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd and Goswami had approached the high court last year alleging that the entire case was malafide and that they have been targeted for Republic TV's reportage in the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, and the Palghar lynching case. Early this year, the Mumbai police had filed two affidavits in the case, saying it had not targeted Republic TV or its employees. The police had said its probe was not a result of any political vendetta and that there was evidence to show that Goswami had allegedly connived with senior officials of BARC to rig the TRP of Republic TV.

The scam had come to light in October last year when BARC lodged a complaint with the Mumbai police through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. Since then, 15 arrests have been made in the case, the most prominent being former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta, who recently got bail.

On the sidelines of this controversy, the government had formed a committee under the chairmanship of Prasar Bharti CEO Shashi S Vempati to study any issues related to the television ratings and make recommendations on the way forward for a robust, transparent and accountable rating system in the country. The report was submitted to the ministry of information and broadcasting in January this year.

On Tuesday, Union minister Prakash Javadekar informed the Rajya Sabha that no specific action has been taken as of yet on the recommendations made in the report submitted the committee. But, appropriate interventions could be considered based on the inputs provided by the committee and recommendations of TRAI.

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