The affidavit further said, “Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has confirmed” “suspicious activity with regard of (sic) the TV channels in which Petitioner No. 2 (Arnab Goswami) is a director.” So far, the probe “prima facie indicates collusion of BARC officials with others to manipulate ratings,” it said. BARC India measures viewership of TV channels.
The police sought dismissal of the petition filed by Goswami and ARG Outlier (which operates the channel) to quash or transfer the probe to CBI. The police said the petition is not maintainable and should be dismissed “with exemplary cost” as neither ARG Outlier nor Goswami have been named as accused yet.
The trial court has taken cognizance of the offences against the accused named in the chargesheet, said the police. The ‘WhatsApp chats’ (between Goswami and former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta) which form part of the November 24 chargesheet need further investigation and cannot be shut out through the petition, the affidavit said.
The affidavit by assistant police commissioner, Shashank Sandbhor, also said it has not found any material indicating culpability of India Today TV channel. “Further investigation is being carried out with regard to many TV channels including India Today.”
Police alleged Goswami “has been holding debates in TV channels owned by ARG Outlier” to make baseless charges against Mumbai police and have a “media trial” to ensure they “are given a clean chit.” Police said Goswami is giving the entire investigation a colour of political vendetta, when the facts would disclose otherwise. Police also denied that the arrest of Ghanshyam Singh, distribution head of Republic TV, was malicious. He is in judicial custody.
Meanwhile, at the hearing on Friday, the HC bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale posted the matter for hearing till February 12. Counsel for state Kapil Sibal said he would not take any coercive action against owners/operators of Republic TV.
Goswami’s counsel Malvika Trivedi said they had to answer the chargesheet contentions and wanted a longer date. She said she was trying to bring on record documents of “unimpeachable nature.”
The police also denied allegations that its probe is “unfair, premeditated to rope in the petitioners as accused” or “frivolous or politically motivated,” or that the “ruling dispensation in Maharashtra set the criminal machinery in motion.” It denied the case was an “attempt to muzzle the media.”
Transfer to CBI has to be done “sparingly,” the SC has held, police said, adding that “6 percent of the bar-o-meters installed in India are in Mumbai and presently the TRP scam seems to be a localized scam” which Mumbai police has jurisdiction over. A separate affidavit filed Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh denied as “totally baseless” all allegations made against him by ARG Outlier and Goswami of bias, malice and malafides.