Mumbai: Observing that the Mumbai Police failed to specify the context for which it seeks to conduct a 'face-to-face' interrogation of former BARC chief Partho Dasgupta, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted him bail. This comes as a major relief for Dasgupta, who is named as one of the prime accused in the alleged TRP scam case.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prakash Naik further said that it cannot allow Dasgupta to be incarcerated indefinitely or till another accused in the case is arrested and ordered his release on a surety of Rs two lakh.
The judge further noted that the Mumbai Police has failed to invoke any penal provision against Dasgupta and Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of Republic TV, over their purported WhatsApp chats pertaining to 'sensitive' issues and nation's security. He also took into consideration the fact that almost all the accused in the case have been released on bail by the lower courts on the grounds that all the documentary evidence in the case was with the investigating team and that the charge sheets have already been filed against them.
Justice Naik particularly took into account the fact that another prime accused, the former chief operations officers of the BARC, who named Dasgupta in his case, has already been released on bail. He also noted that the city police arrested Dasgupta on December 24 last year and filed a charge sheet against him by January 11, 2021.
"If the investigation was at a crucial stage, it is not clear as to why the charge-sheet was filed hurriedly even before completion of the statutory period available to file the charge-sheet. On perusal of documents, it is apparent that the further investigation which was conducted was apparently on the basis of several WhatsApp chats and e-mails exchanged intensely between Dasgupta and the co-accused (Arnab)," the judge said, adding, "Undisputedly no offence is registered with regards to the alleged sensitive chats."
"It is not clear as to how long the investigation would continue and thus he cannot be detained indefinitely in the facts of this case," the court held.
The bench further noted that the trial court while denying bail to Dasgupta had considered the prayer of the city police that it would want to conduct a 'face-to-face' interrogation. "The Sessions Judge has referred to face to face interrogation. It is not clear as to in what context face to face interrogation is required to be conducted. The applicant cannot be incarcerated in the custody till the arrest of the other accused," Justice Naik said while noting that all other accused in the case was already out on bail.
The court, accordingly, allowed the bail plea of Dasgupta.