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.