Arnab Goswami Tells Bombay HC Will Cooperate If Called By Mumbai Police

False and frivolous proceedings against me at the behest of Maharashtra government, Arnab Goswami tells Bombay HC.

The Bombay High Court on Monday heard a plea filed by ARG Outlier Media Private Limited—proprietor of Republic TV and R Bharat news channels, which sought to quash an FIR registered by Mumbai Police in connection with the television rating points (TRP) scam. The media company also sought a stay on the investigation of the scam.

The division bench comprising Justices SS Shinde and Makarand Karnik declined Republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami's request for interim protection after it noted that the FIR does not mention Republic as an accused yet and hence the question of an arrest does not arise. "The police will issue summons first in case it proposes to arraign him (Goswami) as accused," the high court said.

The court also recorded senior advocate Harish Salve's submission that Goswami—his client—would cooperate with the police if called.

The Mumbai police have been directed to submit details of the investigation in a sealed cover by November 4. The court has proposed to hear the matter from the next day onwards.

On October 7, the Mumbai police busted a racket in which certain news channels allegedly manipulated the ratings by bribing the households where barometers were installed to measure the TRPs. TRP is a rating index used by stakeholders that identify the reach of a particular programme, campaign or advertisement on television. A barometer—installed in certain households—measure the TRPs.

While hearing arguments in this matter, the court took critical note of the tendency by investigating officers to disclosing details about ongoing investigations in sensitive cases. Referring to the press conference by Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, the court observed, "Something will have to be done. IT is happening not only in this case but also in other matters where the investigation is in progress. Officers are not supposed to give incriminating material to the media."

Mumbai Police harbours malice and ill-will against Republic

The Supreme Court on Friday had declined to entertain Goswami's plea suggesting the channel approach the high court instead. In its plea, ARG Outlier Media Private Limited submitted, that Mumbai Police and Singh "harbour malice and ill-will" against the channel since they were on the "forefront in questioning the tardy investigation" in Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's alleged suicide case and the Palghar lynching incident.

"As a counterblast, a plethora of false and frivolous legal proceedings have been initiated against the petitioners at the behest of the political dispensation in the state of Maharashtra," the petition read.

"The press statements made by the CP in connection with the TRP scam, thereby falsely implicating the petitioners, is part of a concerted effort and political conspiracy to initiate multifarious legal proceedings against the petitioners at the behest of the political dispensation in the State of Maharashtra in order to harass and intimidate the petitioners from carrying their journalistic duties and exercise their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression," it added.

Investigation in TRP Scam to have Pan-India effect on stakeholders

In its petition, the news channel submitted that according to Singh, some 30,000 "BAR-o-meters" are placed in homes across the country. Therefore, to bring the real culprits behind the alleged manipulation of BARC data, it was essential "to entrust the investigation to a centralized agency since Mumbai accounted for only 1800 or 6% of the meters installed.

"The investigation will have a pan-India effect of various stakeholders including cable TV operators, broadcasters, media agencies, advertisers and all other stake holders…" requiring probe by a central agency "to unearth the real conspiracy and alleged malpractices of any stakeholder."

The commissioner's "premeditated and pre-planned" investigation to implicate the news channel would not only "have a ripple effect on the TV industry but also set a very wrong precedent on the scope of such investigation to be carried out in future as well.

Updated On: 2020-11-27T15:22:34+05:30
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