MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday allowed Mumbai police to continue the probe against
and its editor-in-chief Arnab
(television ratings point) rigging case but granted
Goswami interim protection
from summons/arrest without a 72-hour notice.
The HC bench of Justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale gave these directions while admitting a plea by Goswami and ARG Outlier Media that runs all Republic channels seeking quashing of the case or transferring it to CBI, and posted it for hearing on June 28.
Public prosecutor Deepak Thakre said it will complete the probe in 12 weeks. The HC accepted his statement and directed that the investigating officer should give a “clear notice of three days (excluding holidays)” in case he wants to summon Goswami.
If Goswami receives such summons, “he shall appear and co-operate with the inquiry before the IO” as assured by his counsel Harish Salve last October, the HC added.
The police are probing an FIR registered on October 6, 2020, about meters being rigged to induce viewers to watch particular channels.
Seeking interim protection for Goswami, senior counsel Ashok Mundargi had argued mala fide intentions of the state and pointed out that despite a magistrate having closed the abetment of suicide case, the Alibag-Raigad police had arrested Goswami last year and he was released only after the
granted him bail.
During the TRP investigation “if IO has reasons to believe that he needs to take coercive action against (Goswami), he shall give clear notice of 72 hours before taking such coercive action’’ to allow him to “approach competent forum for appropriate relief”, said the HC. The interim order is granted keeping in mind the “peculiar facts and circumstances of this case”, keeping in view the “serious mala fide” alleged by them against the state and in view of Goswami’s arrest in the Anvay Naik abetment of suicide case.
Mundargi also argued that under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) there was “no concept of ‘suspect’ and that investigation and proceedings can be undertaken only against accused persons”.
The court said the petition deserves to be admitted for five legal questions it raises, including whether the HC can entertain a quashing plea on the grounds of ‘serious mala fide’ and grant any interim protection if the petitioners have not been named as ‘accused’ in the FIR, and if the police can continue the probe by naming ‘owners/managers of Republic TV and persons associated’ with it as ‘suspects’ in its chargesheet.
The HC said the police cannot invoke the chargesheet clause regarding ‘suspects’ to take coercive action against Goswami.
Mundargi also argued that despite two chargesheets filed, there was “no material found yet against Goswami or ARG Outlier”. He submitted that the purpose of putting a ‘suspects’ clause was only to “continue to harass the petitioners with such open ended investigation, which does not seem to be culminating”.