New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Republic Media Group to approach the Bombay high court in the Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation case registered by Mumbai Police saying, “we must have faith in high courts”.
Mumbai Police has levelled allegations against one English (Republic TV) and two Marathi channels (Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema), and summoned Republic TV’s chief finance officer S. Sundaram for investigation.
A 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.
The apex court’s direction comes on the same day when television ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) announced that it would pause weekly ratings of news channels to ‘review and augment’ its current standards in the wake of the ‘scam’.
The alleged racket came to light when BARC filed a complaint in this regard through Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, the Mumbai police had said.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who appeared for Republic, expressed apprehension about the ongoing probe. Senior Advocates Kapil Sibal, Devadatt Kamat and Siddharth Bhatnagar were present at the hearing.
“Your client has an office at Worli [Mumbai]? You may go to the Bombay HC,” the Supreme Court bench said.
“We must have faith in our HCs. Without the intervention of the HC, it sends a bad message to the HC. They’ve been functioning throughout the pandemic,” Justice Chandrachud added, according to a live blog on the hearing run by LiveLaw.
Salve then withdrew the petition with liberty to approach the high court.
The Supreme Court, notably, also expressed concern on the “tendency of police commissioners” to give interviews.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had claimed in press interviews that three channels, including Republic TV, had manipulated their TRP.
The plea in the apex court was filed by Arg Outlier Media Private Limited which owns the Republic Media network. It sought the quashing of the summons issued by the police to Republic’s finance officer.
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 side step, 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 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 had said.
(With PTI inputs)