While hearing a plea challenging Mumbai Police summons to the Republic TV officials for reporting on the TRP scam, the Supreme Court on 15th October asked Republic TV to go to Bombay High Court first before approaching the apex court. Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the office of Republic TV is in Worli, which is closer to Flora Fountain, where the High Court building is located.
A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee heard the petition jointly filed by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd and Arnab Goswami, and rejected the petition. Arnab Goswami and his media house had approached the Supreme Court against the summons issued by Mumbai Police to the officials of the channels, demanding to know the source of the complaint by Hansa Research which was accessed and broadcast by the channel. This complaint had exposed the lies of Mumbai Police Commissioner, as it shows that India Today was accused of manipulating TRP data, not Republic TV as alleged by the Commissioner.
After Republic TV accessed both the FIR in the TRP scam and the complaint by Hansa Research based on which the FIR was filed by Mumbai police, and exposed the lies of Commissioner Param Bir Singh, Mumbai Police have issued summons to several officials to Republic TV to interrogate them. The officials and journalists were questions for hours, asking them the source of the documents.
[Breaking] Supreme Court Refuses To Entertain the Petition filed by @republic TV and #ArnabGoswami against @MumbaiPolice ‘s Investigation against the channel in #TRPScam— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) October 15, 2020
The Petition has asked the Petitioner to approach #BombayHC
Petition dismissed as withdrawn https://t.co/3KPTLGHEjh
Concerns over TV interviews by Police officials
Justice Chandrachud showed concern on how Police Commissioners tend to give TV interviews about ongoing investigations. He said, “We are concerned of this observation that as of late, Commissioners have the tendency of giving interviews.” Since the case came to light, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh has been actively talking to the media about the case. Generally, investigation agencies restrain themselves from talking about ongoing investigations in the media.
Trust the lower courts
The apex court said that people should show trust in the lower courts before approaching the Supreme Court. Justice Chandrachud said, “We must have faith in our HCs. Without the intervention of the HC, it sends a bad message to the HC. They’ve been functioning throughout the pandemic.” Indu Malhotra advised the media network to approach the Bombay High Court under Article 226 or Section 482.
Senior counsel Harish Salve appearing for the Republic TV agreed to withdraw the plea, and approach High Court in the matter. The apex court granted permission.
Reply submitted by Mumbai Police
Before the proceedings could commence, the Mumbai Police had submitted a short advance reply in the court. They said that Article 19(1)(a) could not be used as a shield to prevent any investigation into the alleged fudging of TRPs. Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Mumbai Police, in its reply, also alleged that Republic TV is holding debates and discussing the case at length. They said that the channel is contacting the witnesses summoned by the Mumbai Police and allegedly trying to intimidate them.
A few days back, Mumbai Police Commissioner announced that they had unearthed a TRP scam done by various news channels. Based on the report by Hansa Group that manages BARC devices to determine viewership of the TV channels, Mumbai Police filed a case against three news channels. Though the Hansa Report did not mention Republic TV and had named India Today in the complaint, Mumbai Police summoned Republic TV and named them as one of the accused.