Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court
File pic

The Bombay High Court on Thursday issued notice to the CBI, asking it to respond to the fresh application filed by ARG Outlier Media Ltd and Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami, seeking a stay on the probe in the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam case.
A bench of Justices Sambhaji Shinde and Makarand Karnik has also ordered Mumbai Police to file the status report of its probe against Republic TV and Republic Bharat, the prime channels named in its FIR pertaining to the rigging of TRPs.
Notably, Arnab's channels were named in the FIR by Mumbai Police on a complaint it received from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) highlighting the "abnormal jump" in the viewership of certain channels.
On Thursday, when the matter came up for hearing, senior counsel Milind Sathe, appearing for the Republic TV, told the judges that a fresh application has been filed to transfer the probe to the CBI and to also stay the ongoing probe by Mumbai Police.
"They are investigating even our auditors and chartered accountants, who have nothing to do with the channel's broadcast," Sathe told the judges.
The senior advocate further said that the channel has also challenged the October 21 "hurried" decision of the Maharashtra government, by virtue of which it withdrew its general consent to the CBI to probe any given criminal case within the state.
Having heard the counsel, the judges issued notice to the CBI, asking it to file its say in the matter.
The bench further ordered senior counsel Kapil Sibal to file a status report of the ongoing probe, in a sealed envelope.
A similar report, which was filed before the judges on Wednesday, was returned to police.
The bench accordingly adjourned the matter for further hearing beyond Diwali vacations, till November 25.

Hansa Research moves HC to transfer probe to CBI or CID

Meanwhile, Hansa Research Group Private Limited, the research service provider on whose complaint an FIR was registered in the TRP case, has moved the Bombay high court, accusing the officers of Mumbai Police Crime Branch of pressurising its employees to "disown" a report used by Republic TV to declare that it was not among the channels named in the matter.

The plea, filed by Hansa Research Group Director Narasimhan Swamy, CEO Praveen Nijhara and Deputy General Manager Nitin Deokar on Tuesday, sought transfer of investigation in the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), CID or any other appropriate agency.

It said that several employees of the petitioner company were repeatedly called to the Crime Branch office, pressurised and threatened with arrest and indefinite incarceration to make a "false statement" disowning the report referred to as "Hansa report" on Republic TV.

The plea said that the employees of the petitioner company repeatedly told the officers that they could neither confirm nor deny the report unless they were provided with a complete copy of the same and allowed to compare it with the original internal note.

The company mentioned that they have asked the channel to refrain from using the report since they were not asked for permission for the use of the same. They had also moved a city civil court last month seeking an order to restrain Republic TV from citing the report as 'Hansa Report'. However, the civil court had refused to grant an injunction.

"It is a known fact that there is a battle-like situation between Mumbai Police and certain section from the media for the last few months where an open war of words can be seen and heard every day. It is evident that the petitioners are being used by the police and certain section of the media as means to attack each other and petitioners are suffering from collateral damage in the fight," the petition said.

It said that the petitioners are continuously held at the Crime Branch for long hours and threatened with arrest and are repeatedly pressed to make a false statement.

The plea also sought to stay all further proceedings including the investigation in the case pending the final hearing of the matter and sought directions to police, to not take any step, coercive or otherwise, against the petitioners.

Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd had filed a complaint, on the basis of which an FIR was registered against its employee Vishal Bhandari on October 6 this year for allegedly illegally accepting payments to make certain households watch specific TV channels in a bid to fudge TV TRP ratings. So far, ten persons have been arrested in the matter.

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