Mumbai: The Mumbai Police Crime Branch on Tuesday filed an application in a local court requesting to withdraw the fake TRP case, in which TV channel journalist Arnab Goswami has been named as an accused. The case was based on a complaint by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), which is a rating agency that measures the viewership of television channels.
The complaint, which was lodged in October 2020, alleged that some television channels were manipulating the TRP (Television Rating Point) numbers, which are a tool to list audience preferences and know which program is watched the most. The complaint accused Hansa Research Group, which is a company that installs barometers to measure the TRP, of colluding with some channels to rig the ratings.
The Mumbai Police had registered an FIR against Hansa Research Group and some channels, including Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, and Box Cinema, for allegedly paying money to some households to watch their channels and inflate their TRP. The police arrested more than 12 people, including the distribution head of Republic TV and the owners of the other two channels, in connection with the case. The accused are currently on bail.
The police had named Goswami as an accused in a supplementary chargesheet
The police had named Goswami as an accused in a supplementary chargesheet filed in May 2021. The chargesheet claimed that Goswami, along with co-accused and former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BARC, Partha Dasgupta, had illegally influenced the TRP of Republic TV. The chargesheet cited Goswami’s alleged admission of his WhatsApp chats with Dasgupta as crucial evidence of his involvement in the case.
The chargesheet alleged that Goswami and Dasgupta had exchanged confidential and sensitive information related to the TRP, and had conspired to manipulate the ratings in favor of Republic TV. The chargesheet also alleged that Goswami had paid money to Dasgupta for his assistance in the scam. The chargesheet had invoked various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Information Technology (IT) Act against Goswami and Dasgupta.
The prosecution filed an application to withdraw the case on Tuesday
On Tuesday, the prosecution filed an application before the magistrate court to withdraw the case against Goswami and the other accused. The application did not mention the reason for the withdrawal, but it is speculated that the prosecution did not have enough evidence to prove the charges. The application also did not mention whether the withdrawal was conditional or unconditional.
The court will hear the next case in this matter on December 28. The court will decide whether to accept or reject the application, and whether to discharge or acquit the accused. The court will also consider the objections or submissions of the accused and the complainant, if any.
The case has been a controversial and political issue, as Goswami has alleged that he was being targeted by the Maharashtra government and the Mumbai Police for his critical reporting and views. Goswami has also challenged the case in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court and has sought to quash the FIR and the chargesheet.
The case has also attracted the attention of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is a central agency that investigates money laundering and financial crimes. The ED had filed a money laundering complaint in the alleged TRP scam, based on the FIR lodged by the Mumbai Police. However, the ED, in a chargesheet filed in September 2021, had claimed that no evidence was found against Republic TV in the alleged scam.