Mumbai Police on Monday told the Bombay high court that they will first issue summons to Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of Republic TV, in case he is arraigned as an accused in the television rating point (TRP) scam unearthed by the crime branch.
Responding to Goswami’s request that the police be restrained from taking any coercive steps against the 46-year-old journalist, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who represented the Mumbai Police, said that no such relief can be granted to him, as he has not been arraigned as an accused in the case as of now.
Sibal, however, added that the police will first issue summons to Goswami, if he is made an accused in the case.
Goswami’s counsel, senior advocate Harish Salve, said Goswami would “honour the summons, if any, issued by the Mumbai Police crime branch… and cooperate with the investigation.”
The bench of justices SS Shinde and Makarand Karnik was hearing a petition filed by ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, which owns the Republic TV and R Bharat news channels, for the quashing of the first information report registered by the Mumbai Police in connection with the television rating point (TRP) scam.
A first information report was registered with Kandivali police on October 7, 2020, after the crime branch busted a racket involving the fraudulent increase of TRPs of certain channels, by payment to households where barometers were placed for the purpose of measuring TRPs.
In a press conference held the next day, Mumbai Police commissioner (CP) Param Bir Singh informed the media that one of the arrested accused had revealed that he was working for Republic TV and was paying households to fraudulently increase TRPs of the English news channel.
The petitioner firm has, however, claimed that the “Mumbai Police, including Param Bir Singh, harbour malice and ill-will against the petitioners as Republic TV and R Bharat have lately been at the forefront in questioning the tardy investigation by Mumbai Police in the Sushant Singh Rajput 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.
It added that “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 that the officers and key managerial persons of the petitioner firm and Goswami himself had reasonable and tangible grounds to believe that they would be apprehended by the Mumbai Police in connection with the case.
The petitioner firm has sought a transfer of the case to the central bureau of investigation (CBI) contending that the investigation will have a pan-India effect on various stakeholders, including cable TV operators, broadcasters, media agencies and advertisers. It said criminal culpability of this magnitude required a pan-India investigation by a reputed agency like the CBI to unearth the real conspiracy and alleged malpractices of any stakeholder.