In a setback to the Maharashtra government, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday observed that the Mumbai Police seemed to have no evidence against Republic TV in the case despite investigating the matter for over three months.
According to the reports, a Bombay High Court bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale, hearing the petition filed by the Republic media network, said that Mumbai Police has failed to submit evidence against Republic even after filing two charge-sheets. The court noted that there seemed to be no evidence against Republic TV.
“And this FIR is of October 2020. We are in March 2021. We have seen in matters “khichdi pak rahi hai”. Why keep the sword hanging on their head? You are investigating for the last 3 months and you have no evidence against them. Their contention is that they are always in the fear that some action may be taken against them and it seems so from the past action against their employees,” the Court observed.
Why not name Arnab Goswami? asks Bombay HC
Questioning the delay in the investigation, the Bombay High Court also demanded why the petitioners, including Editor-in-Chief of the channel Arnab Goswami or any of the Republic TV journalists, have not yet been named as accused in the matter.
The observations came after Republic TV submitted before the court that Mumbai Police have deliberately not named Goswami and others as accused yet, so that they won’t be able to move courts for want of locus to quash the case.
As the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) sought more time to seek instructions, the Bombay HC adjourned the hearing and warned the Maharashtra government that it expects prompt responses from the State.
“If you are not able to quickly answer our queries…At an appropriate stage, we will have questions. Will you be answering them? We don’t know who is briefing you or from whom you are taking instructions,” the bench noted.
Mumbai Police not naming Republic TV to keep investigation open
Earlier, Senior Advocate Ashok Mundargi, who appeared for ARG Outlier, had alleged that the intention of the entire investigation by the Mumbai Police is to target Republic TV, despite having information against other channels.
The Republic media network claimed that the prosecution investigation is cooked up and that even though there are two charge- sheets, there was nothing substantial against the channel. Mundargi said that the Mumbai Police have not yet named Republic or its employees as accused in the charge-sheet so that they could keep the investigation open.
He also said that the Mumbai police resorted to “malafides and unnatural ways of collecting information to somehow name the petitioner channel (Republic) by hook or crook.”
The ARG Outlier Media and Goswami had approached the HC last year, filing petitions seeking several reliefs in the fake TRP scam against Republic TV.
Fake TRP scam
On 8th October, Param Bir Singh, Mumbai Police Commissioner, said in a press conference that several channels have indulged in malicious practices to increase their TRP ratings. He alleged that Republic TV is one of the main accused. The complaint was filed by the Hansa group that regulated the devices to record TRP for BARC.
However, the initial FIR did not name Republic TV but named India Today network as one of the main suspects. During the investigation, several evidence and witnesses came forward that alleged Mumbai Police have been intimidating them to speak against Republic TV, including officials of Hansa Research, the company that works with BARC in meassuring television viewership. Hansa had also complained that they are being harassed by the Mumbai Police to give false statements against Republic TV.