TRP scam: 'WhatsApp chats were loose talks,' Partho Dasgupta tells HC

State claimed Dasgupta had rigged TV ratings since 2017.

NEW DELHI: While opposing the bail application of former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Partho Dasgupta in the TRP manipulation case, the state informed the Bombay high court that Dasgupta had rigged TV ratings since 2017 in connivance with the anchor of a news channel and had also silenced an employee who had raised objections to the sudden spike in the ratings of an English news channel.

Special public prosecutor Shishir Hiray said the crime branch of the Mumbai police had accessed, among other things, Dasgupta's WhatsApp chats with a "certain owner and anchor of a TV channel" in which he discussed manipulating the TRPs. Hiray said the two also discussed issues concerning national security.
"They tried to manipulate the entire system of TRPs. There are chats regarding the security of the nation," Hiray said.Dasgupta's counsel senior lawyer Abad Ponda told the HC that the WhatsApp chats were merely "loose talks"; they are not admissible in court and need corroborative evidence.

A single bench of justice PD Naik was informed by Ponda that the police had violated the fundamental rights of Dasgupta by keeping him behind bars even after they filed a charge sheet on January 11. He went on to say that Dasgupta's co-accused in the case were out on bail and that the Maharashtra government had made a statement before the HC earlier this month saying it will not take any coercive action against Arnab Goswami or any other employees of ARG Outlier media, which runs Republic TV channels.

"I am not saying to arrest them. But then the whole group under Republic TV is protected and I am behind bars," Ponda told the bench on behalf of Dasgupta.

Ponda also submitted that those alleged WhatsApp conversations between Dasgupta and Goswami which were part of the police chargesheet took place at a time when Republic TV was not even in existence and Goswami was part of the Times Now news channel.

The high court will continue hearing arguments in the matter on Tuesday.

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