March 17, 2021 12:52:22 am
Republic TV Editor-In-Chief Arnab Goswami’s counsel on Tuesday submitted before the Bombay High Court that the FIR and chargesheet filed by Mumbai police in the Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation case was solely intended to target his client for his earlier reportage against the state government.
The counsel also alleged that Mumbai Police, including suspended API Sachin Waze, who was in charge of the probe, had information pertaining to TRP manipulation in June 2020, but Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh revealed details of the alleged fraud naming Republic TV channel as a suspect in October 2020, almost four months later.
However, the police failed to name Goswami as accused in the case, the lawyer said, adding that such an approach showed malice and malafide on the part of the police to target Goswami by “hook or crook”.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale was hearing a plea by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, which runs Republic TV and other channels along with Goswami, challenging the police probe, FIR, proceedings and chargesheet and seeking transfer of the same to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or any other independent agency.
Senior Advocate Ashok Mundargi, representing the petitioner company and Goswami, submitted that the police have not named Goswami in their chargesheet because they want to keep the criminal prosecution “open-ended”.
“Target is petitioner Goswami and none else. His plea is maintainable. As they have referred to ARG Outlier Media and people connected with it including chalak-malak (operator and owner) in the chargesheet but have deliberately not named him so that the investigation can be open ended and people connected with the channel can be harassed,” Mundargi argued.
“The allegation is that there is rampant bribing for statistics in your (Republic TV) favour,” Justice Pitale pointed out. “They were aware of such kind of things going on irrespective of any particular channel since June 2020 and police said they had some secret source.”
Mundargi said that according to the police, Hansa employee Vishal Bhandari was involved in tampering readings.
Referring to Waze, Mundargi said, “The officer is also very controversial… The officer, who is very much in the news and close to the party in power, gets this information in June, 2020… Bhandari is their (Hansa) employee. If there was any breach of contract, Hansa group would have come forward, which it did not. For nearly six months, they did not do anything.”
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