TRP scam: Complete probe against Republic TV within 12 weeks, HC to police

The channel and its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami are listed as ‘suspects’ in the case.

New Delhi: In a major relief to Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, the Bombay high court on Wednesday directed the Mumbai police to give three days prior notice in case they intend to arrest him in the TRP scam case. Both Goswami and the channel are listed as “suspects” by Mumbai police in the ongoing investigation.

The court was hearing the petition filed by ARG Outlier Media challenging criminal proceedings initiated against Republic TV channel and employees in connection with the TV ratings manipulation case. ARG Outlier Media had submitted that the law keepers in Mumbai had "falsely implicated" its channels and employees and the entire case arose out of an “unparalleled political vendetta”.

Earlier during the hearing today, Republic TV’s counsel Ashok Mundargi submitted before the court that while other channels had also been named, the police were only interrogating Republic TV employees and the channel’s role in the case. He argued that the police had been investigating for nearly four months, but had been unable to get any evidence to book the channel or Goswami.

Having heard the submissions from both sides, the bench directed that in case the investigating officer desires to summon the petitioner Goswami for inquiry/investigation, he shall give clear notice of three days (excluding holidays) to him. It also added that in case such notice/summons is received by Goswami, he shall appear and co-operate with the inquiry before the concerned investigating officer.

The interim order also noted that in the course of investigation, if the probing officer has reason to believe that he or she needs to take coercive action against Goswami, clear notice of 72 hours should be given before taking such coercive action, to facilitate the petitioner to approach the competent forum for appropriate reliefs.

The bench headed by justice SS Shinde also stated that the investigating agency can continue with further investigation, but ordered that the probe against Republic TV should be completed within 12 weeks. The directions come a few days after the court pulled up Mumbai police and asked if it intends to proceed with the investigation against the channel, considering it remains a ‘suspect’ on police records, even after filing two charge-sheets in connection with the case.

The court also clarified that the investigation cannot be stayed right now since neither the channel nor Goswami are made accused yet and there is no clarity from the investigating agency on the status of whether they will be made accused or not.

The TRP 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 by bribing households where BARC bar-o-meters were installed to tune into a particular channel throughout the day. As many as 15 arrests have been made in the case, the most prominent being former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta, who recently got bail after furnishing a bond of Rs 2 lakh. The arrested people were charged with cheating, criminal conspiracy, and destruction of evidence.

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