In a signed statement to the Mumbai Police, Partho Dasgupta, former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India claimed that Republic TV editor in chief paid him US $12,000 for international vacations and over 40 lakhs, some in cash for manipulating ratings in favour of the news channel. Dasgupta is one of the 15 accused in the high profile TRP scam case involving three channels Republic TV, Box Cinemas and Fakt Marathi.
The signed statement is part of the supplementary chargesheet, filed by the Mumbai police on January 11. The supplementary chargesheet was filed against Dasgupta, former BARC Chief Operations Officer Romil Ramgarhia and Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani with 12 more named in the first chargesheet filed in November 2020. The chargesheet running into 3600 pages includes a forensic audit report done by BARC, statements of 59 people including cable operators and WhatsApp chats allegedly between Goswami and Dasgupta
BARC is an independent body constituted to calculate the audience measurement for TV channels. The WhatsApp chats between Goswami and Dasgupta show repeated instances of coordinated attacks by them against rival news channels and their editors/owners. The Mumbai police has also found instances where BAR-o-meters used to calculate and measure TRPs of channels were tampered with to favour a certain channel.
The three page document, first accessed by The Indian Express, states that Dasgupta recorded the signed statement on December 27, 2020 at the office of the Crime Intelligence Unit at 5.15 pm by a Special Investigation Team in the presence of witnesses. It starts with Dasgupta stating that he knows Arnab Goswami since 2004 and even worked with him at Times Now and continued to be in touch with him after joining BARC in 2013. Goswami was till 2016 Editor-in-chief of Times Now and launched his own Republic TV in May 2017. Dasgupta in the statement says that Goswami had discussed plans to launch Republic TV and adds that he would, "indirectly hint at helping him to get good ratings to this channel." He adds that Goswami was aware about Dasgupta's knowledge about the TRP system.
Dasgupta then further goes on to narrate that through 2017 to 2019 he worked with his team to rig TRP ratings to show that Republic TV gets the number 1 rating. He then lists out the number of times, he was paid by Goswami with details of the location and year. He first mentions the international vacations that Goswami funded for Dasgupta and his family. "...in 2017 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis hotel, Lower Parel and given me $6000 cash for my France and Switzerland family trip…also in 2019 Arnab Goswami had personally met me at St Regis and given me $6000 dollars for my Sweden and Denmark family trip." He then says Goswami also paid him a total of Rs 40 lakh, some in cash through 2017, 2018 and 2019. The statement reads, "Also in 2017, Goswami had personally met me at ITC Parel hotel and given me Rs 20 lakh cash… also in 2018 and 2019… Goswami met me at ITC hotel Parel and gave me Rs 10 lakhs each time…"
He also mentions that he spent the money on household expenses and "bought one Tag Heuer wrist-watch and silver jewellery from money which was given by Arnab Goswami". The statement has Dasgupta telling the police that the same are in his house and he would tell the police which drawer it was kept in.
BOOM scanned through the supplementary chargesheet and found that the police listed the said items as part of the recovered items. In Volume 5, page 2 of the Recovery list, item number 14 reads, "Tag Heuer brand watch model number WAH1110-OEBG1475 valued approximate at one lakh rupees recovered from Partho Dasgupta's house on December 27, 2020" and point 15 lists silver jewellery worth over 2 lakh rupees recovered on the same date. The police statement was recorded on Dec 27, 2020.
While a statement by an accused given only to the police but not recorded in front of a magistrate is not admissible as evidence, section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act allows for part of the statement to be admitted if the police recover items based on the same.
BOOM reached out to Dasgupta's lawyer Arjun Singh Thakur who said, "The statement is not a confession at all as it was not recorded in front of a magistrate. We deny the statement and allegation as it would have been recorded under duress. It does not have any evidentiary value." When asked if they would contest the same if supported by corroboratory evidence, Thakur said, "There is nothing corroboratory in their chargesheet."-
The WhatsApp chats part of the supplementary chargesheet reveal conversations between Dasgupta and Goswami which suggest routine rigging and manipulation done in favour or Republic TV including one from 2017, months before the channel's launch, where the former seems questionably involved in its distribution. The chats further reveal Goswami's closeness to Union ministers including Smriti Irani who was in 2017 the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.