In a very significant development in the TRP manipulation case, Hansa Research Group has said that it is being harassed by the Mumbai Police forcing them to make false statements against Republic Media Network. The company which operates the Bar-O-Meters of BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), has moved the Bombay High Court seeking transfer of the probe into the case from Mumbai Police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), reports Bar and Bench.
In the petition filed with Bombay High Court, Hansa Research has alleged that the Police have been adopting pressure tactics to coerce its employees to issue a statement that a document published as Hansa Report by Republic TV is a fake document. The report by Hansa Research based on which the FIR in the TRP case was registered, names India Today as the channel which had bribed households with the bar-o-meters to watch the channel, and it does not name Republic TV as alleged by Mumbai police. The FIR also names India Today and Republic TV finds no mention in the FIR too.
The petition says that “the petitioners are continuously held at the Crime Branch for long hours and threatened with arrest and repeatedly pressed to make false statements.”
The petition has been moved by Hansa group Director Narasimhan K Swamy, CEO Praveen Omprakash and Nitin Kashinath Deokar. It says that it has already explained to the police that it is in position to adjudge whether the document shown by Republic is genuine or not. They have said that Republic never applied to them for a copy of the report, and the channel has shown only extracts of the document.
The petition filed by Hansa also says that their officials are being questioned without written notice, and they are given no time to produce documents. “This method of demand for information, lack of time given for response and pressure place on the officers of Petitioner No 1 continues till the time of the writing of this writ,” the plea adds.
Mumbai police Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh, Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze and ACP Shashank Sanbhlor have been named as respondents in the petition. The company has informed that since October 12 onwards, Hansa Research employees have been repeatedly called to the Crime Branch office and made to wait for hours.
The company says that its employees have been harassed by Mumbai Police because they declined to give a false statement against Republic TV by saying that the channel had displayed a fake document.
Hansa Research has also pointed out at that it was the complainant in the TRP manipulation case, and now they are being harassed by the police. It said, “This is a unique situation where the First informant in a crime is being harassed by the investigating agency and treated like accused only for a false statement which is enacted from them. This is completely against law and procedure laid down by law. This is against the fundamental rights of a person and calls for immediate intervention by this Hon’ble High Court.”
It may be noted that Hansa Research had filed the case against one of its employee Vishal Bhandari, who had confessed to have received money to pay to BARC panel houses to watch India Today channel for 2 hours a day. However, in a controversial press conference by Param Bir Singh, he had said that Republic TV was named in the case, and didn’t mention the name of India Today. However, soon the original complaint of Hansa Research, and the FIR registered by Police in the case, had shown that India Today was named multiple times in the case, and Republic TV was not named.
Since then, Mumbai Police led by Param Bir Singh and Sachin Vaze have launched a series of attacks against Republic TV, trying to implicate in the case. Officials and journalists of the channel are daily summoned to the police station and questioned for hours, to know only one thing, the source of Hansa Research Repost which had exposed the lies of Param Bir Singh.
Now Hansa Research says that their employees are also facing the same treatment, as they overall they been detained for around 200 hours for no justifiable reason. The only object to call and detain the petitioners and other officer bearers is to pressurise and frustrate them so that they make a false statement according to the desire of Sachin Vaze for reasons best known to him, the petition says.
Hansa Research says that police and media are using them to attack each other, and they are suffering collateral damage in this fight.
The company says that it can’t say that Republic displayed a fake document without seeing the physical document, as it is difficult to determine its authenticity from what was shown on TV. But despite that the police is harassing them to declare that the document is fake.
Vaze and his team are not ready to take anything short of a statement by the petitioners disowning the said purported report shown on Republic TV and thus are pressurising, threatening and harassing petitioners with their arrest and indefinite detention and seizure of their mobile phones, which is illegal and condemnable, the company adds in the petition. They have said that Vaze and the Crime Branch officers have started a campaign of making media statements based on false and unverified facts.
Due to such harassment and pressure by Mumbai police, the company has petitioned the court to transfer the case to CBI, and to restrain the police from acting coercively against Hansa and its employees and to issue directions to restrain the police from issuing threats to them.
It may be noted that while Hansa has said they are unable to make a statement on the authenticity of the report published by Republic, they have already hinted that it is genuine. After Republic had flashed the report on TV, the company had filed a case against the channel trying to stop it from publishing it, saying that it was a confidential report. However, the court had refused to stop the channel from airing it in its defence.