The TRP scam, which is being investigated by the Mumbai Police seems to have more twists and turns than a Bollywood thriller. While the Hansa Research Report and the FIR based on it named India Today, the Mumbai Police Commissioner, Parambir Singh, held a press conference less than 48 hours after the FIR was registered and named Republic TV in the TRP scam instead. Since then, the saga of harassment of Republic TV journalists and officials have continued unabated.
Interestingly, while the Hansa Research Report and the FIR based on it named India Today and subsequently, a witness, while talking to the media also named India Today, inexplicably, in front of the magistrate, the witness changed tunes and named Republic TV, as was reported by the Times of India. It was suspected that the change in the statement could be coerced, however, there was no evidence to prove that theory.
In a development that gives yet another twist to the saga, now, a conversation has come to light where a witness, in whose home a bar-o-meter is installed, is admitting to his neighbour that he is being coerced to name Republic TV and India Today in his statement.
This recorded conversation was sent through credible sources to OpIndia. The recorded conversation, which is between Person A (Person in whose home a bar-o-meter is installed) and his neighbour, makes it evident that Person A was scared for his security and his family’s safety after being allegedly coerced by the Mumbai Police.
In the conversation, Person A tells his neighbour that at 3:30 AM, the police barged into his house. He says that they have arrested someone and an enquiry is underway about this machine (bar-o-meter). His family was further asked how much money they get, who gave them the money and in whose account was the money being received. He alleges that the arrested person was also with the 10-12 policemen who had barged into the house. On being enquired, the arrested person says that he had paid this family Rs 500 in cash and Rs 200 in the account. He also says that the police had taken all his details, like his address, phone number, account details etc. The person arrested is one Umesh, who is reportedly connected to Person A.
At this point, his neighbour advices him to lie and say that he watches none of the channels and gets only Rs 250 as rent. Person A, however, refuses to lie and says that the arrested individual has already said that they receive money, and now, it makes no sense to lie to the police.
Here is where the conversation becomes interesting.
Person B (the neighbour), asks Person A (the concerned person with the bar-o-meter installed) whether the police asked them what channel they watch.
Person A sounds nervous, clearing his throat, he says that they were told that there is a scheme of -channel name redacted- and ‘it’s their system’. Person A was enrolled in this ‘scheme’ and that was the reason they were getting ‘all the facilities’. He then says that his younger son was there and he said that they were told that -channel name redacted- has a ‘scheme’ and they would provide ‘facility to customers’.
The police then allegedly tells Person A’s family that “this has got nothing to do with -channel name redacted- but India Today and Republic Bharat”. Person A then says that his son told the police that they do not watch either India Today or Republic Bharat, but just watch -channel name redacted- when his father is at home.
Thereafter, Person A then says that the police had already written Republic Bharat in their papers (It is unclear what papers Person A was talking about, but presumably, he was talking about the witness statement).
The neighbour at this point says that the police is doing this to “trap them” (presumably meaning Republic TV). Person A at this point gets even more nervous and says that the police will also implicate him in false allegations. He says that the police will stand in front of his door and then, the rest of the building residents will say what is the “lafda” that he is involved in.
It becomes clear that Person A was not home when the police had barged into their house. He tells the neighbour that his wife told them that 10-12 policemen had barged into their home to question them. The neighbour at this point tells Person A that even if there were 20 policemen, they should tell them categorically that Republic Bharat does not give them money. Further, the neighbour tells him to say that Maharashtra government is against Republic and is trying to find something against them, however, they are just customers (people with bar-o-meters in the house). He says that if they paid them, they would watch them too. Concluding his comment, he tells Person A to tell clearly that -channel name redacted- pays them and not Republic Bharat.
Person A then says that the arrested person who was with the police “must have got beaten” and wonders what he must have told the police under duress. “if they have beaten him and made him say R Bharat, then he will confess it was R Bharat”, he says.
Person A reveals in the conversation with his neighbour that while 10-12 policemen were in his house, another 5-6 were standing at the gate of the building. He reveals that they have “already written R Bharat on paper” and while today police have come to his doorstep, tomorrow, others will become while his wife is alone.
Audibly shaken, he wonders what his plight would be, worried about Mumbai Police showing up at his door everyday and the other residents of his building getting worried about the mess and asking him to vacate the residence. The neighbour admits that “they are trying to make a case against R Bharat’. Person A says that he is extremely worried about the “lafda” with the police and courts and sounds increasingly agitated about the prospect of being dragged into the mess.
From the entire conversation, certain pertinent questions come to the fore:
- Under what circumstances is it acceptable for the police to question anyone at 3:30 AM in the morning?
- Does this not point towards coercive tactics?
- If the customer (Person A and his family) had repeatedly said that they were enrolled in a ‘scheme’ to watch -channel name redacted-, why did the Mumbai Police insist that the case does not concern them, but is about Republic Bharat and India Today?
- After losing face with the Hansa Research Report and FIR details emerging, is the Mumbai Police trying to create more evidence, independent of the initial FIR and Hansa Report to hound Republic TV?
- Why did the Mumbai Police add the name of Republic TV, as alleged by Person A, to its documents while the witness kept insisting that he DID NOT watch Republic Bharat at all and instead, was asked to watch -channel name redacted-?
- Can an investigation into any case be carried out with the police force being personally vested in implicating one channel?
The full conversation can be heard here:
What the advocate of arrested accused (Umesh) told OpIndia
OpIndia reached out to Advocate Giri, who is representing accused Umesh. He was told about the audio conversation that OpIndia is in possession of where Person A, in whose home a barometer was installed was talking, supposedly to his neighbour. At this point, Advocate Giri confirms that Person A was indeed talking to his neighbour and that he, in fact, is connected to accused Umesh (who he is representing).
However, when asked about the authenticity and contents of the audio conversation, Advocate Giri said that it would not be proper for him to comment on the contents or the authenticity of the tape since he was not present during the conversation and since, the matter is sub-judice. However, Giri did confirm that Person A was indeed talking to his neighbour and that he was connected to his client, Umesh, who is now in police custody.
The saga of the fake TRP scam and the curious case of Republic TV being implicated by Mumbai Police, while the complaint and FIR mentioned India Today
The TRP scam case has seen several twists and turns. While the Hansa Research report and the FIR filed on the basis of it named India Today, in less than 24 hours, Mumbai Police had seemingly made up its mind that Republic TV was the culprit instead and sent a notice to BARC to acquire their viewership data. In 48 hours, Parambir Singh had held a press conference naming Republic TV in the TRP scam and not even mentioning India Today.
Later, the Hansa Research FIR, their report based on which the FIR was filed and a witness statement naming India Today surfaced, putting the Mumbai Police and India Today in a tight spot.
After it was revealed that India Today had earlier been implicated by BARC Disciplinary Council in the manipulation of viewership, the drama had reached its Zenith, or so it seemed.
Soon, the witnesses, after being guarded by Mumbai Police closely, told the magistrate that it was Republic TV that had paid them. With this audio emerging where a customer in whose home a bar-o-meter is installed, alleging that he is being pressured by the Mumbai Police to name Republic TV in the TRP scam, the investigation further becomes questionable.
In the entire suspicious chronology of the case where Republic TV was being implicated in the TRP scam, not a shred of evidence, except the inexplicably changed statement by the witness, has surfaced against the channel run by Arnab Goswami in the public domain. While their CEO, CFO, journalists and Arnab Goswami himself continue to be hounded by the Maharashtra coalition government and the state machinery, including the Mumbai Police, it remains to be seen how many more twists and turns this case throws up.
Note: OpIndia has emailed the CBI earlier today informing them of this potential evidence that has come in our possession. As independent journalists, while it is our duty to put this critical information out in the public domain, we have informed the CBI that we are willing to handover the information we have with regards to this audio conversation, to assist in their investigation of the TRP scam. If an when the CBI responds to our email, we will update this report with the relevant information.
Note: Person A mentions another channel which he watches and had subscribed to owing to a ‘scheme’ they were being offered. That channel’s name has been redacted in the report since no police investigation, FIR or Hansa Report mentions that channel’s name thus far. The only mention of that channel is in this conversation. Therefore, OpIndia is withholding the channel name for the purpose of this report, pending inquiry.