Republic TV on Monday told the Bombay High Court that the Mumbai Police’s intention of probe into the alleged TRP scam was only to arrest the news channel’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami. The channel said that the texts exchanged between Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, the former CEO of BARC India, were “merely conversations between two friends”, Bar and Bench reported.
Senior advocate Ashok Mundargi, responding to the bench’s decision to continue with the investigation, said: “The entire purpose of this investigation is to arrest petitioner no. 2 Arnab Goswami and once he is arrested, it will stop.”
The bench, comprising Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale, adjourned the hearing due to paucity of time. Before adjourning, it directed chief public prosecutor Deepak Thakare to get instructions from the investigating officer on the time limit for completing the investigation.
Mundargi’s primary contention was that even after the chargesheet was filed, the petitioners had not been named as accused, and despite months of ongoing investigation, no evidence was brought to the table.
“My submission was that since we are still being shown as suspects, and the investigation is not going any further, as far as we are concerned, the investigation can be quashed. They have been investigating for so long. Whatever and from whichever sources they can get information they could have gotten…There is no other, new source,” Mundargi said.
Last week, Mundargi had challenged the police to not play “hot and cold” and asked them to present evidence, if any. The court had supported his stand and said, “We do not think there is anything as such as suspect in criminal law.”
Mundargi’s further said that there was nothing in the chats to show that TRP manipulation was discussed. He claimed that the chats submitted to the court were placed out of context.
He argued that the force had conducted a press conference on October 8, 2020 mentioning Republic TV‘s name, however, with no such mention in the FIR registered. He sought for the admission of the plea on the grounds that “the investigation was cooked up” and that the force had intentionally not mentioned them as accused but mere suspects in the chargesheet alleging that Republic TV was being targeted.
As a result, the court on Wednesday, granted Goswami protection from arrest and directed the police to give him an advance notice of three days in case they decide to take any coercive action against him. Chief Public Prosecutor Deepak Thakare for the Mumbai Police informed the court that they will complete the investigation within twelve weeks.
The TRP scam was unraveled in October 2020 when the Mumbai Police claimed to bust a scam and accused three news channels of internally rigging the viewership rating mechanism. Former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh accused television channels Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema of manipulating TRPs during a press conference.