Updated: January 30, 2021 8:13:17 am
The Mumbai police has claimed that ARG Outlier Media Pvt Limited, which runs Republic TV, and its editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, are carrying out “vendetta” against the police force through their TV channels and that Goswami is “directly interfering and intimidating witnesses by issuing news releases”.
Earlier this week, through affidavits filed before a division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale, which is hearing a plea by ARG seeking quashing of the FIR in the TRP case, the Mumbai police denied allegations of “falsely implicating” employees of the petitioner.
The Mumbai police, through Shashank Sandbhor, Assistant Commissioner of Police, CID, Crime Branch, filed the affidavit in reply to the plea. “The investigations carried on so far prima facie indicate collusion between the officials of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) with others to manipulate ratings,” according to the affidavit.
“The entire effort is to have a ‘media trial’ wherein the TV channels owned by ARG are given ‘clean chit’ and officials of the Mumbai Police are shown in bad light. Such a media trial is antithetical to the process of free and fair investigation as also administration of justice,” the police said in the affidavit.
Further, the police submitted that WhatsApp chats seized during the probe indicate “commission of offence”, and “contain relevant information that requires further investigation, which should not be shut out by way of present proceedings.”
Denying allegation of “desperation to implicate petitioners instead of probing the role of other channels mentioned in complaint,” the affidavit stated, “The police are investigating the role of the channels mentioned in the complaint. As on date, there is no material to indicate culpability of India Today TV Channel and further investigation is being carried out with regard to many TV channels including India Today.” The police also refused a plea by the petitioners to transfer the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation and said that the right does not lie with “the petitioners, who have not yet been named as accused”.
“The petitioners are attempting to scuttle the investigation, which is at a crucial stage, by making false and baseless allegations against Mumbai police,” the affidavit urged, seeking that ARG’s writ petition be dismissed with exemplary cost.
Defending the press conferences held by the police after it unearthed the alleged TRP scam, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, in his affidavit, said briefings were held as per the procedure and practice established in “sensitive cases”.
On Friday, the bench remarked that parties in the case had been filing additional replies and affidavits at the “eleventh hour,” making it difficult for the court to go through bulky case papers. “This way, it will go on for months. State will have to make this statement (protection from coercive action) every time. All pleadings have to be completed till February 9,” three days prior to the next hearing, the court said.