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TRP scam: Bombay HC grants bail to Partho Dasgupta

The former BARC CEO was arrested on 24 December on charges of criminal breach of trust and cheatin

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MUMBAI: After spending well over two long months in police custody, former CEO of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta has finally been granted bail by the Bombay high court, the Bar and Bench reported. He had been detained in Taloja central prison for his alleged involvement in the TRP manipulation case..

Dasgupta has been granted bail subject to his furnishing a bond of Rs 2 lakh. As part of the bail conditions, he is required to appear before the crime branch of the Mumbai police every month for a period of six months. A single-judge bench of justice Prakash D Naik ruled that Dasgupta will have to deposit his passport and will have to cooperate with the investigation and appear during the trial when summoned.

Dasgupta had approached the high court after the Mumbai sessions court rejected his bail plea in January. Pending hearing and disposal of the bail application, he had also sought release on interim bail in view of his health and treatment or sought to be shifted to PD Hinduja Hospital, a private hospital in Mumbai for his treatment. However, the HC, on 22 January, had refused urgent interim relief and did not intervene.

During the bail hearing, senior advocate Aabad Ponda and advocate Shardul Singh made submissions on behalf of Dasgupta. They informed the court that a voluminous chargesheet has been filed against Dasgupta within the 60-day period as specified under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code. Their contention was that if interrogation and investigation was not completed, the chargesheet against him should not have been filed at all.

Ponda also contended that according to the chargesheet, BARC chief operating officer Romil Ramgarhia was directly involved in the manipulation of TRPs whereas Dasgupta was merely negligent. Yet, Ramgarhia was easily given bail because according to the police, the investigation against him was complete even though no chargesheet had been filed.

Another ground Ponda raised was that the other accused named in the chargesheet were granted bail or protection from coercive action, including the Republic TV group, which was protected from arrest as per the statement before the division bench of the court. Dasgupta’s counsel had told the bench that while all the accused in the TRP case were out on bail or pre-arrest bail and despite the chargesheet being filed on 11 January 2020, which showed the investigation was completed, he was still behind bars.

Refuting the charges that the ex-chief of BARC had accepted watches and silver jewellery from Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in return for manipulating the TRPs of his channels, Ponda stated that there was enough evidence to prove that those items were purchased by Dasgupta and his wife with their own money around the year 2000.

Ponda had further argued that the WhatsApp chats between Dasgupta and Goswami mentioned in the chargesheet could not be relied upon by the Mumbai Police to keep Dasgupta in detention as those were mere "loose talks" between two individuals.

While concluding their submissions, Ponda and Singh submitted that while the application was not purely a medical bail application, it could not be ignored by the court that Dasgupta suffers from severe medical conditions which would cause him difficulty while in judicial custody.

Special public prosecutor Shishir Hiray, who made submissions on behalf of the Mumbai police, while opposing the bail application pointed out that even though Ramgarhia was in charge of the finances, Dasgupta was the main executive officer and the managing director of the company, which is a more important position.

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