Updated: February 13, 2021 8:07:45 am
After the Maharashtra government gave an assurance that it would not take coercive action against Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami and other employees of ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, which runs the news network and other channels, in the alleged TRP fraud case till March 5, as mentioned in the charge sheet, the Bombay High Court on Friday accepted the same and extended the interim relief until then.
The court also indicated that it was inclined to hear the ARG Outlier and the Arnab Goswami matters in the case through the physical hearing mode so as to expedite the proceedings. In view of voluminous documents being submitted by the parties in the case, including the charge sheet filed by the Mumbai Police, the court said it would not be possible to refer the same through virtual hearing, adding that it preferred holding a physical hearing from March 16.
On Friday, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, arguing for the state government, submitted that in the rejoinder affidavit filed by ARG, countering Mumbai Police’s charge sheet, the channel had relied on several new documents that were not part of its pleas, adding that the state would require time to respond to the new documents.
According to the affidavit filed by ARG Outlier Media, Mumbai Police’s charge sheet in the alleged TRP fraud case did not disclose “a shred of evidence” to support the charges levelled against Republic TV and its employees, including its editor-in-chief.
Stating that the police had “falsely implicated” its employees in the case, it said the entire case against its channels and employees was based on “unparalleled political vendetta” and “deeply malicious witch hunt”.
A division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale adjourned the hearing, saying it would hear the plea for interim relief of protection from arrest through a hearing via video-conferencing on March 5.
The bench will also take up ARG’s main petitions challenging the police probe and seeking transfer of the case to the CBI or any other independent agency, on March 16 through physical hearing.
Senior Counsel Harish Salve, appeared for the Republic TV and Goswami, told the court that he had taken the Covid-19 vaccine recently and since the next shot was due six weeks later, he would not be able to travel to attend the physical hearing.
“I want to be candid with the court to inform you that yesterday, I have taken the first shot of the (Covid-19) vaccine and in another six weeks I will be taking another shot,” said Salve, who currently resides in London. “I can’t travel before taking the second shot but someone will surely come from our side to assist the court,” he added.
Introducing a lighter note to the proceedings, Justice Shinde then intervened and asked Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, “Taking departure from the subject matter of the case, why is vaccination not happening for us also (Judges and lawyers)? We are dealing with physical hearing every day.”
The bench also adjourned hearing on pleas filed by Goswami and two other accused, challenging the proceedings and the charge sheet filed in 2018 abetment-to-suicide case of interior designer Anvay Naik, to March 5.
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