Refusing to hear the Republic TV plea against the Mumbai Police, which is probing the alleged TRP scam to boost channel ratings, the Supreme Court on Thursday bundled it back to the Bombay High Court, where the Republic petition is pending, to seek relief "like any other citizen facing investigation."
A 3-judge Bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud gave enough hints to the channel's chief editor Arnab Goswami not to rush to the Apex Court every time and seek out-of-turn immediate relief.
"You have already filed a petition in the High Court. If we entertain you, it will send a message that we don't have faith in the High Courts. Like any other citizens facing predicament of probe under the CrPC (criminal procedure code), you must go to the High Court,'' the court observed.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the TV channel, withdrew the petition after the Bench, which included Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, gave its mind, saying "your office is at Worli in Mumbai, close to Flora Fountain (where the HC is located) and so better agitate in the High Court." The TV channel had sought that the TRP probe be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The Republic TV, which claims the highest viewership in terms of the Television Rating Points (TRPs), said in its petition that it was being targeted for questioning the role of Mumbai police in its coverage of actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death. In its affidavit, the Mumbai Police had accused the channel of making attempts to thwart the police investigation in the case.
In another affidavit filed late Wednesday night, the Mumbai Police accused the Republic TV of abusing the process of law by conducting programmes in the case and "intimidating the witnesses."
On Salve expressing concern about the Mumbai Police Commissioner giving interviews to the media, Justice Chandrachud disapproved of the tendency when the case was still under investigation by the crime branch.
The police affidavit says: "Republic TV's demand to transfer the probe to CBI is misconceived. Republic TV wants to thwart the probe into fudging of TRP ratings. Media trial is against free and fair probe. Arnab Goswami (Republic TV's editor-in-chief) is holding programmes where this case is debated at length; witnesses are being contacted and being intimidated."
On the channel alleging threat to freedom of speech, the police said: " "Freedom of speech cannot be invoked into an alleged crime. The right under Article 19(1) on freedom of speech cannot be a shield against probes."
Goswami has said that he will sue the Mumbai Police for the allegations heaped against his TV channel, insisting that there is "not a single BARC report that mentioned Republic TV and the people of India know the truth that BARC has not mentioned Republic in any complaint."