Today the Bombay High Court allowed Arnab Goswami’s petition against Mumbai Police’s investigation into the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam to be admitted, whilst also granting the Republic TV Editor protection against police arrest.
The Bombay High Court Division Bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale gave directions to the Mumbai Police, requiring them to send a three-day advance notice to Arnab Goswami prior to taking any coercive actions against him in the course of the investigation. Arnab is free to approach the court against any such notice by the Mumbai Police. This will act as protection against any arbitrary arrest of Goswami.
The Bench noted the seriousness of Goswami’s allegations, observing that “Serious malafides have been alleged by the petitioner (Arnab Goswami).”
The Chief Public Prosecutor representing the Mumbai Police informed the court that Mumbai Police will complete the investigation within 12 weeks. The court adjourned the case to June 28, and framed the following questions as issues of the case to be decided.
1. Whether the prayers made for quashing of FIR can be entertained in the absence of the petitioners being arraigned as accused.
2. In the absence of the petitioners being made as accused in respect of the FIR, whether the petition can be entertained for transfer of investigation to the CBI and direction not to take any coercive steps against the petitioner as also their employees and agents.
3. Whether the respondents (Mumbai Police) can be permitted to keep the sword of investigation hanging over the heads of petitioner for indefinite period without them being arraigned as accused.
4. Whether the Investigating officer can continue the investigation by invoking the widely worded clause of “suspect”
5. Whether the prayers in the Writ Petition can be entertained only on the grounds of serious malafides against the petitioners, when they are admittedly not accused in the FIR.
However, the court refused to stay the proceedings against Arnab Goswami and his channel. The court said that since neither the channel nor Goswami are made accused yet and there is no clarity from the investigating agency on the status of whether they will be made accused or not, the investigation would not be stayed at this stage. Earlier the court had expressed unhappiness over the police investigation in the case, saying that despite investigating the matter for over three months, the Mumbai Police had not unearthed any evidence against Republic channel.
It may be noted that the Mumbai Police continues to probe Republic TV in the TRP case despite having no evidence against the network. The original complaint and the FIR had both named India Today as the channel bribing households with BARC viewership tracking devices to watch their channel, but from the beginning, Mumbai Police chose to prosecute Republic TV instead. Recently Enforcement Directorate had also said that India Today had bribed to increase its viewership, while the central agency didn’t accuse Republic Network of doing so.