The Supreme Court today refused to admit Republic TV’s petition seeking a CBI probe into allegations of rigged viewership ratings, saying that the channel should instead approach the Bombay High Court “like any other citizen facing investigation”. Republic TV is among three channels that are being investigated by the Mumbai Police for allegedly manipulating ratings to get high advertising rates.
“You have already filed petition in high court. Entertaining this petition without high court sends message that we don’t have faith in high courts. Like any other citizens faces predicament of probe under Cr.P.C (Criminal Procedure Code) must go to high court,” court said.
The three-judge bench comprising Justice D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee said the high court has been working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the media group should approach it as its office is located at Worli which is close to Flora Fountain where Bombay high court is situated.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Republic TV, expressed concern about the police commissioners giving interviews to media.
“We are concerned with the tendency of police commissioner to give interviews now a days,” Justice DY Chandrachud replied to Mr Salve without referring to the case. Republic TV has now withdrawn its plea from the top court.
Mumbai Police had opposed the petition filed by Republic TV, saying that the channel was making attempts to thwart the police investigations in the case.
In an advance petition filed in the Supreme Court late last night, the Mumbai Police said that Republic TV is abusing the process of law by conducting programmes in the case and “intimidating the witnesses”.
“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 and contacting witnesses and interfering and intimidating the witnesses,” the police said in the affidavit.
Mumbai Police also contended the channel’s claim on freedom of speech in its affidavit to the top court. “Freedom of speech right cannot be invoked into an alleged crime. Right under Article 19(1) freedom of speech cannot be a shield against probe,” it said.
The police also said that a number of officials of several channels have been summoned in the case.
Apart from Republic TV, the Mumbai Police is investigating the role of two other channels — Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema — as part of its probe into the alleged manipulation of ratings.
The investigation into the alleged fake ratings case is based on a complaint by Hansa, a private company involved in assessing viewership.
Republic TV – which claims the highest TRPs or Television Rating Points among news channels – has said that it was being targeted for its coverage of actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, where they have questioned the role of Mumbai Police.
The channel’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami had said they will sue Mumbai Police for the allegations and that there is “not a single BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) report that mentioned Republic TV”. “The people of India know the truth. BARC has not mentioned Republic in any complaint,” he said.