The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Mumbai Police to submit the progress report pertaining to the investigation into charges of TRP fudging by November 4.
In view of the plea seeking interim protection from arrest of Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, the HC noted that he was not an accused in the case so far. The HC directed the Mumbai Police to issue summons to Goswami in the first instance if he is proposed to be added as an accused in the FIR. The bench said in case of summons being issued, Goswami would have the liberty to move the HC for relief.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice M S Karnik was hearing Republic TV’s petition against summons issued by Mumbai police in connection with the investigation into charges of TRP fudging. The petition also seeks that an interim stay be ordered on the investigation in the case and Mumbai Police be directed not to take any coercive steps against the channel or its employees.
The Mumbai police has summoned senior executives of the channel for questioning. The petition also sought the case to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The petition stated that the Mumbai police was “determined to falsely implicate” the channel and “silence news reporting” done by it. It further said the FIR filed against it was a violation of the fundamental rights of speech and expression. The plea also sought a CBI inquiry and and disciplinary proceedings against the city’s police commissioner Param Bir Singh, claiming “gross dereliction of duty and abuse of power”.
The petition filed before the Supreme Court was withdrawn on October 22 after the apex court said that the High Court should first be approached.
On Monday, senior counsels Harish Salve and Milind Sathe submitted that no offence was made out by the police and their actions were reeking of “malafide”, with an attempt to suppress the petitioners’ voice.
Salve also said if a probe was to be conducted, it should not be by the police since they are biased against the petitioners. He submitted that the petitioners would cooperate with the investigation.
Senior counsels Kapil Sibal and Devadatt Kamat, appearing for the Mumbai Police commissioner, strongly opposed the plea and said the petition was “entirely premature” and relates to an FIR that involves allegations of paying cash for getting TRPs to make commercial profits and three channels are prima facie involved. The investigation is still on and the petitioner Goswami is not even named as an accused in FIR, Sibal said.
The court also referred to petitioners’ contention regarding the interviews given by the Mumbai Police commissioner to the media about the case and said “there is a tendency by investigating officers to disclose about the ongoing investigations in sensitive cases”.
“We do not know if it is the correct method to give interviews to the media by police officers and disclosing ongoing investigation. It not only is happening in the present case, but it has been happening in other matters where the investigation is in progress. We are not attributing this to anyone, but officers are not supposed to give incriminating material to the media,” Justice Shinde said.
Sibal said the court could record his client’s statement that he would not go before media pending investigation in the TRP scam case while urging it to also direct the petitioner channel not to conduct “media trial”.
To this, the HC said, “We consider media a fourth pillar of democracy though not mentioned in the constitution of India. So, it is up to them how to conduct their reporting.”
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