Mumbai Court Allows Withdrawal of TRP Scam Case Against Arnab Goswami

In a recent update, a Mumbai court has allowed the city’s crime branch to withdraw the case related to the alleged Television Rating Points (TRP) scam of 2020, in which Arnab Goswami, the Editor-in-Chief of Republic TV, is a key accused. The decision was made after Special Public Prosecutor Shishir Hiray conveyed to the court that continuing the legal proceedings might not result in a conviction and could only serve to consume valuable judicial time.

The court, under Metropolitan Magistrate LS Padhen of Esplanade court, allowed the withdrawal of FIR no. 843 of 2020. Shishir Hiray, the Special Public Prosecutor, shared insights into the matter, stating that the prosecution had filed an application under Section 321 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, following a government decision. This section allows the withdrawal of a case, and the prosecution sought the court’s consent for such withdrawal.

Hiray explained that no party had come forward, including the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), or advertisers, asserting that an offense had occurred. He emphasized that the lack of supporting evidence and the absence of complaints from relevant authorities led them to believe that pursuing the case might not lead to a conviction and would only burden the judiciary and the government.

The prosecutor also highlighted conflicting reports submitted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which contradicted the allegations made by the Mumbai police. The ED, which had initiated a money laundering case based on the Mumbai police FIR, ultimately cleared Republic TV and R Bharat of charges related to manipulating TRP numbers.

Hiray informed the court about the conflicting evidence presented by the ED during the investigation. The TRP scam originally surfaced in 2020 when the crime branch uncovered fraudulent activities by some employees of Hansa Research Group. These individuals were found manipulating ‘sampling metering services’ by bribing people to watch specific TV channels.

Vishal Ved Bhandari, one of the individuals arrested, disclosed that he increased TRP ratings for media channels by offering money to households with monitoring devices. Subsequent interrogations revealed that homeowners were paid to keep their TV sets tuned to specific channels, even if they had no intention of watching them.

BARC, an organization under the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, used barometers to measure TRPs. In November 2020, the Crime Branch filed a chargesheet indicating that Republic TV had benefited from the scam, manipulating viewership numbers to enhance revenue.

Surprisingly, Arnab Goswami was formally charged in June 2021, despite the arrests of over 10 individuals earlier in the case. All the accused were subsequently granted bail. In November 2023, the Crime Branch submitted an application seeking the withdrawal of the case under section 321, citing the State home department’s decision based on various factors, including contradictions in the Mumbai police probe.

The court approved the prosecution’s request to withdraw the case, issuing an order to that effect. A more detailed order is expected in due course. This decision marks a significant development in the TRP scam saga, raising questions about the evidence and the validity of the case against Arnab Goswami and others involved.

High Court Emphasizes Long Detention Deserves Bail, Regardless of Offense Severity

The Bombay High Court recently issued a significant ruling emphasizing the importance of personal liberty and timely trials for undertrial prisoners, even in cases involving serious offenses. The court’s decision came during a bail hearing for Akash Chandalia, who had spent 7.5 years in jail facing charges of double murder.

Justice Bharati Dangre, presiding over the case, made a noteworthy observation during the bail hearing. She stated that undertrial prisoners who have been incarcerated for an extended period should ordinarily be released on bail, regardless of the seriousness of the accusations against them. This decision was based on the belief that depriving individuals of their personal liberty without ensuring a speedy trial contradicts Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty.

The bail application in question was connected to a case involving gangster Kisan Pardeshi and his associates, including Akash Chandalia. The group faced charges of kidnapping, assault, and murder related to an incident in July 2015. It was alleged that they had injured two individuals who later succumbed to their injuries, and their bodies were subsequently recovered.

During the bail application, Chandalia pointed out that two co-accused individuals, Vikas Gaikwad and Yasmin Sayyed, had already been granted bail in 2022 due to trial delays. Justice Dangre noted that since the delay in trial had led to the release of these co-accused, there was no reason why Chandalia could not be granted bail as well.

The judge’s ruling underscores the idea that while the gravity of an offense and its heinous nature are factors to be considered when granting bail, the extended incarceration of an accused as an undertrial prisoner should also carry significant weight in the decision-making process. Justice Dangre’s decision aligns with the principle that individuals should not be made to endure prolonged imprisonment without the prospect of a timely trial.

This ruling by the Bombay High Court sets an important precedent, highlighting the need for a balanced approach in bail decisions, particularly for undertrial prisoners who have spent a considerable amount of time in custody. It emphasizes the significance of protecting the fundamental right to liberty guaranteed by the Constitution and ensuring that justice is not delayed to the detriment of individuals awaiting trial.

In summary, the Bombay High Court’s decision in the Akash Chandalia case reaffirms the importance of safeguarding personal liberty and conducting trials in a timely manner. It recognizes that extended periods of undertrial incarceration should be a compelling factor in bail considerations, irrespective of the seriousness of the charges.

Bombay HC Seeks Legal Input in Rahul Gandhi Defamation Case

The Bombay High Court has sought the assistance of Maharashtra’s Advocate General, Birendra Saraf, in a defamation case involving Rahul Gandhi, a prominent Congress leader and Member of Parliament. The case originates from a defamation complaint filed against Gandhi by Mahesh Hukumchand Shrishrimal, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which resulted in criminal proceedings being initiated against Gandhi by a Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Girgaon. The matter pertains to an alleged incident in September 2018 when Rahul Gandhi conducted a political rally in Rajasthan. During the rally, he purportedly made defamatory statements against India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Following the alleged defamatory remarks made by Gandhi, Prime Minister Modi was reportedly subjected to online trolling and negative media coverage across various news channels and social media platforms. In response, the Metropolitan Magistrate Court issued a summons to Rahul Gandhi on August 28, 2019, to appear before the court. Gandhi subsequently challenged this order in the Bombay High Court after receiving the summons in July 2021.

Rahul Gandhi, represented by advocate Kushal Mor, contended that the defamation complaint against him was frivolous, vexatious, and driven by the complainant’s ulterior political motives. Gandhi’s legal team, led by advocate Sudeep Pasbola, argued that there were legal barriers to the complaint’s validity. They cited Section 199(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which stipulates that a sessions court must take cognizance of an offense when it is alleged to have been committed by a public servant in the discharge of their public duties. Pasbola asserted that this provision constituted a legal impediment for Mahesh Shrishrimal, the complainant, preventing him from filing the defamation complaint.

Furthermore, Pasbola pointed out that according to Explanation 2 under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a political party is not considered an eligible entity to file a defamation plea. Consequently, Shrishrimal’s attempt to file the complaint in a representative capacity on behalf of a political party was legally untenable.

In light of these legal complexities and the crucial questions of law raised in the case, Justice SV Kotwal of the Bombay High Court decided to seek the assistance of Maharashtra’s Advocate General. The judge emphasized the importance of addressing the significant legal issues involved in this matter.

As a result, the case has taken a notable turn, with the involvement of the Advocate General expected to provide valuable legal insights. It remains to be seen how this assistance will impact the ongoing legal proceedings and whether Rahul Gandhi’s plea to quash the defamation case will ultimately succeed. The case underscores the intersection of legal principles and political disputes in India’s judicial landscape, with potential ramifications for defamation cases involving public figures in the future.