Nearly 50 days after the Mumbai police unearthed a racket related to alleged rigging of television rating points (TRPs), they filed a charge sheet in a court on Tuesday in the case in which 12 people, including senior executives of Republic TV and two other channels, have been arrested so far. The charge sheet was submitted before a magistrates court around 10.30 am by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Mumbai Crime branch which is probing the case, an official said.
The voluminous document, containing 1,400 pages, has cited approximately 140 people as witnesses, which include Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) officials, forensic experts, forensic auditors, advertisers and barometer users, among others, he said. Statements of advertisers are also part of the charge sheet in which they said have alleged cheating, the official said.
Forensic audit of TV channels, including Republic TVs accounts, form part of the document, he said. Another 2,000 pages will be added in a supplementary charge sheet to be filed later. Along with forensic and technical evidence, it will contain chat logs, emails, messages and other data extracted from phones, laptop and computers seized from the accused persons, he said.
The Crime Branch has so far arrested 12 persons, including Republic TV’s western region distribution head Ghanshyam Singh and owners of two other channels, in connection with the scam, he said. Republic TV and other accused have denied any wrongdoing and manipulation of the TRP system.
During investigations, it came to surface that Singh used to take orders from his bosses at the TV channel, he said. Singh was part of various WhatsApp groups of ARG Outlier Media, which owns the Republic TV channel, the official said.
The chats are highly incriminating and suspicious and show involvement of his bosses in the alleged scam, he said, adding all these form part of the chargesheet. Two arrested accused had expressed willingness to become approvers and their statements under section 164 of the CrPC (admissible in court) were recorded before a magistrate, he said.
During the probe, it came to light that some cable operators had used dual LCN technology which allowed viewing of one channel on two channel numbers at a time. One of the channels involved in the alleged TRP manipulation could be seen on a TV network for kids, the official said. These cable operators and channels have received notices from the regulator TRAI for violation of rules, he said.
The alleged scam came to light when rating agency BARC filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, saying certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. At a press conference held on October 8, Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh had claimed thatRepublic TVand two Marathi channels Box CinemaandFakt Marathi – were involved in manipulating TRP for better advertisement revenue.
Maha Movie channels Amit Dave, its owner/director, Republic TV channels owner/director and/or people related to them, News Nation channels owner/director and/or people related to them, a person named Rocky and some others were shown as wanted accused by the Crime Branch in the remand applications submitted before the court. Earlier, Republic TV’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and two Chief Operating Officers (COOs) and Chief Finance Officer (CFO) were summoned by the police for questioning in the TRP racket case.
Meanwhile, a Mumbai Crime Branch team is in Bengaluru to apprehendRepublic TV COO Priyanka Mukherjee, who has filed an anticipatory bail application before the Karnataka High Court, the official said. The application is likely to be heard on Wednesday.
The Mumbai Crime Branch has “direct evidence” against Mukherjee and her bosses, he said, adding the police also found her link with Ghanshyam Singhs chat box. Mukherjee was summoned and notices were issued to her almost eight times and on two occasions she appeared before the probe team, he said.
While coming to the Crime Branch office for questioning, she had allegedly deleted chats with Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami from her phone, he said. Maha Movie channels Amit Dave has also filed an anticipatory bail application before a court in Mumbai and its hearing is scheduled on Wednesday, the official said.
The SIT had summoned Wow channel owner Jayanti Gada and his son Akshay to record their statements in the TRP case on Tuesday, but the duo said they will appear on Wednesday, he said. Wow channel is also known as Pen Music Company.
The CEO of the company appeared before the probe team on Tuesday and recorded his statement, he said. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) recently filed a money laundering complaint in the alleged TRP scam being investigated by the Mumbai Police.