'Like any other citizen, go to Bombay High Court': SC directs Republic TV on next steps in fake TRP case
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the media house, expressed apprehension about the ongoing probe saying 'of late, there is a tendency that commissioners are giving interviews'
The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Republic Media Group to approach the Bombay High Court in the Television Rating Points (TRP) scam case registered by the Mumbai Police.
A bench comprising Justice DY 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. “We are only saying approach the HC first,” Justice Malhotra said, reported Bar & Bench.
Senior Adv Harish Salve appears for Republic Network
Justice Chandrachud: Your client's office is in Worli, you can go to flora fountain and approach Bombay HC under Article 226
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) October 15, 2020
"You have already filed a petition in the high court. Entertaining this petition without a high court sends a message that we don't have faith in high courts. Like any other citizens faces the predicament of probe under CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) must go to the high court," the apex court told the media company, reports LiveLaw.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the media house, expressed apprehension about the ongoing probe saying "of late, there is a tendency that commissioners are giving interviews". Salve then withdrew the petition with liberty to approach the high court.
During the hearing, the Mumbai Police opposed Republic TV’s petition, saying Article 19(1)(a) couldn’t be invoked to sidestep, thwart and prevent an investigation by competent authorities in the matter.
Mumbai Police had earlier filed an affidavit in the top court seeking dismissal of the plea filed by Republic Media group contending that investigation into an alleged crime cannot be urged as a ground for violation of Article 19(1)(a).
"Article 19(1)(a) cannot be invoked by the petitioners to sidestep, thwart and prevent any investigation by the competent investigating agency into alleged fudging of TRP ratings. The right under Article 19(1)(a) is not a shield which can be used against any a commission of a crime under the extant criminal law of the land," it said.
The police submitted that the allegations contained in the impugned FIR registered by it make out any offence cannot be decided at this stage.
"The investigation is still progressing in respect of FIR No. 143 of an a 2020. There is no exceptional circumstance whatsoever warranting any interference by this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution," the police said.
The Mumbai Police also said that Republic TV is attempting to turn the FIR in the TRP scam case into a “media spectacle”, and that rights under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution cannot act be used as a shield against the commission of a crime, reports LiveLaw.
The Reply concludes with the observation that the Petitioner (@republic) is directly interfering and intimidating witnesses by issuing news release, and that such media trial is antithetical to administration of justice. #RepublicBharat #Republic #TRPScam pic.twitter.com/lNsFiSPOoV
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) October 15, 2020
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", reports NDTV.
"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 the 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.
The Mumbai police have also registered a case in the TRP scam and summoned Republic TV's chief financial officer S Sundaram for investigation.
The police have already arrested owners of channels Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema in the case. The plea in the apex court was filed by Arg Outlier Media Private Limited which owns the Republic Media network.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had claimed that three channels including Republic TV manipulated the TRP.
The racket came to light when BARC, an organization which measures TRP, filed a complaint in this regard through Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, the police had said.
With inputs from PTI
Disclaimer: Network18 Media & Investments Ltd, the publisher of Firstpost, also owns CNN-News18
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