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TRP Scam: Complainant gives no objection for withdrawal of the case

ByRutuja Gaidhani
Jan 19, 2024 08:18 AM IST

Nitin Kashinath Deokar, the first informant in the TRP manipulation case, has given his no objection to the withdrawal of the prosecution. The case involves Republic TV and R Bharat channels, and the plea to withdraw the prosecution was filed by the state government. The ED has already cleared Republic TV and R Bharat from the allegation of manipulating TRP numbers. The agency is still investigating News Nation and India Today. In its charge-sheet, the ED stated that the investigation done by the Mumbai police was at variance with their own investigation.

MUMBAI: The first informant in the Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation case, Nitin Kashinath Deokar, a representative of the Hansa Research Group, on Thursday gave his no objection for the withdrawal of the prosecution.

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The Esplanade metropolitan magistrate court had issued summons to Deokar on January 1, seeking his reply on the plea filed by the state to withdraw prosecution.

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“The first informant (Deokar) states that he has No Objection if the application filed by State under section 321 is allowed and the proceedings in the captioned matter are withdrawn/ stopped and further if accused are acquitted/ discharged from the matter,” said Deokar in his reply.

On November 28, 2023, the state government had filed an application before the court for withdrawal of prosecution in the Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation case, which had named Republic TV and R Bharat channels headed by Arnab Goswami. The plea was filed under Section 321 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which enables a prosecutor to drop a prosecution.

In October, 2020, the Kandivli police had registered the case after ratings agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, alleging that certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers. Republic channel and its executives along with other TV channels were named as accused in the case.

Based on the police case, the ED undertook a money laundering probe and in September 2022 cleared names of Republic TV and R Bharat news channels from the allegation of manipulating television rating points (TRP). The agency was, however, yet to conclude its probe against two other channels - News Nation and India Today.

In its prosecution complaint or charge-sheet filed in September 2022, ED has named 16 accused, which included directors of Box Cinema, Fakt Marathi and Maha Movies channels and several relationship managers (RMs) employed by Hansa Research Group, a contractor employed by BARC.

In the charge-sheet, the agency claimed that it has examined the role of Republic in detail and it became evident that the investigation done by the Mumbai police was “at variance with the investigation done by the ED”.

ED listed some points on which they arrived at this conclusion. First, the ED said, raw data for panel households who were allegedly watching Republic TV (as per Mumbai police charge-sheet) was sought from BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council, a joint industry company set up by stakeholders to manage television audience measurement system.

“Analysis of viewership pattern of those households showed that these households were watching channels other than republic channels,” ED has said in its charge-sheet. Second, the central agency said, panel households denied having taken money for watching Republic TV or R Bharat channels. “Their statements corroborate with raw data maintained independently by BARC,” the ED added.

Third, the agency said, in their statements, though the relationship managers (RMs) have stated that they have indulged into practice of paying panel households, the TV channels have denied the allegation that they paid the households to watch Republic TV or R Bharat. Besides, the ED claimed, it had not found any “financial/fund trail” so far to connect payment of monies by Republic TV to of any of the persons – RMs or households.

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