10 days ago, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), the equivalent of FIRs filed by the Police, in the TRP case. It was reported that ED will be investigating money laundering allegations and all channels mentioned in the original FIR would be probed.
10 days on, OpIndia has learnt that the ED has already summoned officials from Hansa Research, based on whose FIR the original probe was initiated. It is pertinent to note that in the complaint by Hansa Research, based on which the initial FIR was filed named only India Today and a few other local channels as the main accused in the alleged TRP scam. However, the Mumbai police commissioner had held a press conference only 48 hours after the FIR which mentioned India Today was filed and implicated Republic TV led by Arnab Goswami in the alleged scam.
According to sources in Delhi ED, Hansa Research, while being questioned by the ED, named India Today and not Republic TV. Further, when two BARC officials were summoned, one from their vigilance department and another from the IT department, both attested to the fact that the Mumbai Police had not summoned any raw data from BARC.
Raw data here would essentially mean the details of bar-o-meters installed. 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. 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.
This inexplicable lapse came to light during the questioning of BARC officials by the Enforcement Directorate which is now looking into the TRP case from a money laundering angle. BARC has told ED that despite being called by the Mumbai Police, they didn’t ask for BARC’s basic raw data, which would have ideally been the starting point of this investigation.
ED sources have also revealed that BARC officials have now been summoned with the data which would be examined by ED within 48 hours. Further, OpIndia is told that once that process is over, India Today officials would be summoned for questioning as well.
Interestingly, while the Mumbai Police has allegedly not looked at the raw data by BARC, within 48 hours of the FIR being filed, Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh had held a press conference alleging that the FIR that was filed based on the Hansa Research complaint, pointed towards Republic TV indulging in malpractice. Further, when the FIR and the Hansa Research Report, that implicated India Today and not Republic TV, the Mumbai Police had tied itself up in knots to justify its probe.
After the initial celebratory tones of India Today, after the FIR surfaced, India Today went into damage control mode. Talking to Mumbai Police, Rajdeep Sardesai tried to get a statement saying that India Today was not named in the FIR. Rajdeep took to his channel to question the Joint Commissioner of Police. He asked, “an attempt has been made to suggest that India Today was mentioned in the FIR” and then, went on to demand clarity to exonerate himself and implicate Republic TV. The Joint Commissioner, however, interestingly admitted that it was indeed India Today that was named in the FIR. This revelation itself leads the Mumbai Police to tie itself up in knots since once this admission is out in the open, not much else makes sense.
While this drama was unfolding on India Today, Republic journalist spoke to Tejal Solanki (witness in the TRP scam) who specifically implicated India Today. She said that her son was asked to watch India Today specifically. However, she did appear scared. She kept asking the journalist if nothing would happen to them and they would be safe. The scared witness was then spoken to by India Today where they twisted her statement completely to implicate themselves. In fact, the scared witness kept repeating that no channel had paid her and she watched no channel to increase the TRP. That statement was then taken by India Today to say that she had admitted being paid money to watch Republic TV.
While the witness was being manipulated by India Today, interesting visuals started to appear on Republic TV. They had got footage where it showed how Mumbai Police personnel were guarding the house of Tejal Solanki.
While tales of witnesses being tampered and intimidated came to the fore, another startling revelation appeared.
Hansa Research Group said that it was 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), moved the Bombay High Court seeking transfer of the probe into the case from Mumbai Police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), reported Bar and Bench.
In the petition filed with Bombay High Court, Hansa Research 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 petition said 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 was moved by Hansa group Director Narasimhan K Swamy, CEO Praveen Omprakash and Nitin Kashinath Deokar. It said that it has already explained to the police that it is in a position to adjudge whether the document shown by the Republic TV is genuine or not. They have said that Republic TV 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 were 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.
All of this, coupled with the fact that the Mumbai Police has allegedly not called for the raw data from BARC, which should have been the starting point of the investigation does point to the fact that the investigation may have been botched up. With the ED investigating the case now, uncomfortable details that have been pushed under the rug may as well surface, turning this investigation on its heel.