A notice was issued on a writ petition seeking to quash the FIR against the news channel and Goswami for cheating, criminal breach of trust and conspiracy.
The Bombay High Court on Monday issued a notice on a petition filed by Republic TV and its Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in the Television Rating Points scam, Live Law reported. The court told the Mumbai Police that Goswami should be summoned if he is proposed to be added as an accused to the case.
A bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik directed Goswami to obey the summons. “In case, the investigating officer proposes to array him as an accused, in that case, the officer will issue summons to him in the first instance,” the court said.
A writ petition was filed by Goswami, ARG Outlier Media Limited, the company that runs Republic TV and Republic Bharat. They sought to quash the first information report registered by Kandivali police station for cheating, criminal breach of trust and criminal conspiracy in connection with the TRP scam.
The court directed the Mumbai Police to present the results of the investigation in a sealed envelope on November 4. The judges said the case will be taken up next on November 5, adding that it will be the final hearing.
The court refused to heed Goswami’s lawyer Harish Salve’s plea to provide the journalist interim protection from arrest, observing that it was difficult to do so since he had not been arraigned as an accused.
Salve claimed that Mumbai Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh was acting vindictively by giving press statements against Goswami and Republic TV, even though the journalist was not arraigned as an accused. Salve claimed that the Maharashtra government was trying to target and suppress the journalistic freedom of Republic TV.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Police, said that summons will first be issued to Goswami. However, he said he could not commit that Goswami would not be arrested. The judges noted that the Mumbai Police has so far issued summons to seven persons, none of whom have been arrested.
Sibal submitted that the petition was premature and that Goswami could not be entitled to special privileges just because he was a journalist.
The fake TRP racket was uncovered earlier this month when the Broadcast Audience Research Council filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. Hansa Research is one of BARC’s vendors on engagement with panel homes, or “people’s meters”. Republic TV, Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi were accused of TRP manipulation during the preliminary investigation.
On October 14, Republic TV’s Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanaswamy and Senior Executive Editor Abhishek Kapoor appeared before the crime branch of the Mumbai Police to record their statements in the case.
The Mumbai Crime Branch said on October 12 that they had arrested a former Hansa Research employee named Vinay Tripathi from Uttar Pradesh. The officials said that he played a key role in the scam and had paid another accused to manipulate ratings. The police also recorded the statements of two senior officers from Hansa Research.
The police have also arrested the owners of Box Cinema and Marathi channel Fakt Marathi, Shirish Shetty and Narayan Sharma.
Republic TV Chief Executive Officer Vikas Khanchandani had appeared before the Mumbai for questioning in case on October 11. The TV channel’s Chief Financial Officer Shiva Subramaniyam Sundaram was supposed to appear before the police on the previous day, but he asked for a reschedule citing “personal commitments”.