Former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) CEO Partho Dasgupta rigged the "entire" TRP system for news channels and also discussed issues of national security with "a certain owner cum news anchor" on Whatsapp, the Mumbai Police told the Bombay High Court on Monday. Special public prosecutor Shishir Hiray told a single-judge bench presided over by Justice PD Naik that Dasgupta was directly involved in manipulating Television Rating Points (TRPs) with the help of other accused persons.
Hiray, who was opposing Dasgupta's bail plea in the HC, said the crime branch of the Mumbai police had accessed, among other things, Dasgupta's WhatsApp chats with a "certain owner and anchor of a TV channel" where in he discussed manipulating the TRPs. Hiray said the two also discussed issues concerning national security.
"They tried to manipulate the entire system of TRPs. There are chats regarding the security of the nation," Hiray said.
The purported chats between Dasgupta and Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, who is also an accused in the TRP scam case, on the 2019 Pulwama attack are a part of the chargesheet filed by the police in the case. Justice Naik asked if any offence had been registered with regard to the Wahtsapp chat regarding the Pulwama attack, to which Hiray replied in negative.
Dasgupta's counsel, senior lawyer Abad Ponda, told the HC that the WhatsApp chats were merely "loose talks". "Regarding Whatsapp chats, I will only say it is loose talks. Those are not admissible and need corroborative evidence," Ponda said.
He said Dasgupta's co-accused in the case were out on bail and that the Maharashtra government had made a statement before the HC earlier this month saying it will not take any coercive action against Arnab Goswami or any other employees of ARG Outlier media, which runs Republic TV channels. "I am not saying to arrest them. But then the whole group under Republic TV is protected and I am behind bars," Ponda told the HC on behalf of Dasgupta.
He also said that the chargesheet had already been filed in the case and Dasgupta's custodial interrogation was not required any more, and therefore, he be granted bail. Objecting to the bail plea, Hiray said the statement made by Maharashtra government counsel Kapil Sibal, protecting the ARG employees, had been made with "reluctance".
Hiray said the TRP scam happened at three levels. "The barometers for measurement were installed by BARC and Hansa. The viewers were paid monthly for watching their channels. The inevitable conclusion is that the information was leaked from BARC," he said.
Justice Naik then asked if Dasgupta was the one who had leaked the information, to which Hiray said that seemed to be "the inevitable conclusion". "There is a full involvement (of Dasgupta). For a few crores he (Dasgupta) allowed the TRPs to be manipulated," he said.
Hiray further said the other accused who were granted bail in the case were not as "powerful' as Dasgupta is. The HC will continue hearing the arguments on Tuesday.