This is the first time the city police have named Republic TV in its court filings.
Other than Republic TV, it has also shown owners of News Nation, Maha Movie and persons associated with the running of these channels as ‘wanted’ in the case.
While seeking the custodial remand of arrested accused-Ramji Verma and Dineshkumar Vishwakarma, in their remand application police mentioned “Abhishek Kolevade Ajit alias Amit, owners of Republic TV news channel, News Nation, Maha Movie and those related with the running of these channels, Rocky and other accused,” as ‘wanted accused in the case’.
These channels were not immediately reachable for comments. In earlier statements Republic TV has denied any wrongdoing and has accused Mumbai Police of carrying out a biased investigation.
The case is being probed under certain sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including sections- 409 ( criminal breach of trust by an agent) , cheating (420), 212 (harbouring offender) , 406 (criminal breach of trust) , 465 (forgery) and 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), section 174 (non-attendance in obedience to an order from public servant), 179 (refusing to answer public servant authorised to question), 201 ( causing disappearance of evidence or giving false information to screen offender) 204 (destruction of evidence) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy)
“From the investigation and questioning of the arrested accused and witnesses it has been revealed that the arrested accused along with the wanted accused, Kolevade, to ensure that Maha Movie, Republic TV and News Nation is most watched, these accused took money from the owners or those related with the running of these three channels namely- Maha Movie, Republic TV and News Nation to rig the bar-o-meters by paying the households where these were installed,” states the remand.
“As the investigation is still underway, the names of the owners or those running the affairs of these channels hasn’t been mentioned at this point in time. The probe will ascertain who exactly in these channels including the owners commissioned the payments to the arrested accused and who and how it was executed. Those will be named accused in due course,” said a senior police officer privy to the development.
The police are investigating Republic TV, Fakt Marathi, News Nation, Maha Movie and Box Cinema for allegedly having engaged in manipulation of TRPs “by bribing the households to increase the viewership of their channels/programmes so that subsequently their ratings increase, resulting in windfall economic benefit for the said channel/programmes”, according to the first information report. “A manipulated TRP rating results in several advertisers to part with huge money to undeserving channels, thereby causing unlawful losses to all the concerned parties.”
Viewership monitoring agency BARC India had authorised subsidiary Meterology Data to install and operate the viewership meters through vendors, including Hansa Research Group . The allegation is that confidential information on the location of the metered television sets was leaked and viewers were paid to keep their sets tuned to specific channels.
Nine people including five former employees of Hansa have been arrested in the case.