Hansa Research Group Private Limited, the field research service provider on whose complaint the first arrest was made in the ‘TRP scam’, has moved the Bombay High Court, alleging that Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch officers probing the case are pressuring its employees to “retract” a report, based on which Republic TV had claimed it was not among channels named in the case.
In the petition filed on Tuesday, the four petitioners – Hansa Research, its director Narsimhan K Swamy, CEO Praveen Nijhara and deputy GM Nitin Deokar – contended that since October 12, several employees of the company have been repeatedly called to the Crime Branch office and were pressured to make a “false statement” disowning the report telecast on Republic TV on October 10 – referred to as the “Hansa report”.
They also claimed that they are caught in crossfire in a “battle-like situation between Mumbai Police and certain sections from media for the last few months…. It is evident that the petitioners are being used by police and certain section from media as means to attack each other and petitioners are suffering from collateral damage in this.”
The petition stated: “Harassment caused to the petitioners by respondent no. 1 (Assistant Inspector Sachin Vaze) is only with a view to extract a statement, albeit false, from them that the…purported Hansa report shown on Republic TV since October 10 is not that of the petitioner no. 1 but a fake one.”
The petitioners stated that they told Crime Branch officers repeatedly that they could not confirm or deny the report since they were not aware what the ‘Hansa Report’ cited by Republic TV was, as the channel had not sought their permission or informed them about using the report, and only parts of the report were telecast. They said that they will have to see the entire document to ascertain its veracity.
Hansa has urged the court to transfer the probe to CBI or another state agency, accusing the Crime Branch of being “biased”.
Last month, they had also moved the city civil court seeking an order restraining Republic TV from citing the report as ‘Hansa Report’ since they were not informed by the channel. The city civil court, however, refused to grant the injunction.
The petition names Assistant Police Inspector (Crime Branch) Sachin Vaze, Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh, Assistant CP and chief investigating officer Shashank Sandbhor, the Maharashtra government and the CBI as respondents.
The petition is likely to be heard by the court later this week.
The research company, which was roped in by BARC to be a part of TV audience measurement process by installing bar-o-meters in households in 2014, contended that it was officially summoned only twice but it has been present at the Crime Branch for hours every day from October 12 until filing of the petition, and left the Crime Branch premises on some days as late as 11.15 pm.
On October 26, the petition stated, four directors of the company and one vice-president (finance) were present at the Crime Branch office. The petitioners claimed that while the Crime Branch officers again told the petitioners to deny ‘Hansa report’ as fake, they also disallowed their lawyer to enter the Crime Branch premises.
They were then told that they were being arrested and their phones were seized, the petition stated.
The petitioners alleged that since October 12, when Nijhara and Deokar first wen to the Crime Branch office, their employees have been “kept detained there for over 200 man hours for no justifiable reason”. The only objective of the Crime Branch, the petition alleged, is to “keep them detained and pressurise and frustrate them so that they make a false statement according to the desire of Respondent no 1 (Vaze) for reasons best known to him.”
Hansa Research Group had lodged an FIR against its employee Vishal Bhandari on October 6 after he was found allegedly accepting payments illegally to make certain households watch specific TV channels, allegedly to fudge TV TRP ratings. Ten arrests have been made since, including those of former employees of the company.
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