- Apprentice Lawyer
Dasgupta was arrested on December 24 by the Mumbai Police for his alleged involvement in the TRP Scam. He was in police custody till December 31, after which he was remanded to judicial custody for two weeks.
The bail application filed through Advocate Arjun Singh Thakur was extensively argued today by Advocate Shardul Singh.
Refuting the allegations of the Police that Dasgupta had used his position as CEO to manipulate TRPs, Singh argued that the data was collected and provided by the Hansa Research Company, over which Dasgupta had no control.
Singh pointed out that the offence of cheating was added only to include a non-bailable offence, and that there was no evidence to show that Dasgupta cheated or induced any person.
He added that in order to make out the offence of cheating and breach of trust against the accused, the person cheated must necessarily be the complainant.
The actual stakeholders who are supposed to be affected by the alleged fake TRP scam are actually the advertisers and media houses who are not the complainants in this case, he submitted.
“No advertiser has come forward to say that it has been so deceived. The prosecution had ample time since lodging of FIR to verify this position, however it did not do so, because there is no advertiser who is deceived”, Singh argued.
He also refuted the claims of the Police that jewellery and expensive articles recovered by them was purchased with the money received from Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami.
He informed the Court that Dasgupta had acquired those items with his legitimate earnings much before 2017, when the Republic TV channel was launched.
Singh remarked that despite the allegations that Dasgupta was paid by Goswami to increase viewership ratings of his channel, the latter was never added as an accused in the FIR or the chargesheet.
He further submitted that all electronics belonging to Dasgupta which he allegedly used during his tenure as CEO were already seized by the Police, and all financial transactions and statements were also made available to them for investigation. Thus, there was no further requirement of his custody in jail.
He apprised the Court that not only were Dasgupta's belongings seized, the Police also froze his bank accounts, as well as those of his wife and daughter.
Concluding, Singh submitted that the former Chief Operating Officer of BARC, Romil Ramgarhia, was also released on bail despite being in an equally important position in the company.
Additional Sessions Judge MA Bhosale was informed by Special Public Prosecutor Shisher Hiray that a supplementary chargesheet had been filed in the FIR of the TRP Scam case against few accused including Dasgupta.
He requested for more time to go through the voluminous documents before making his submissions.
Singh then pressed for interim bail on the ground that since the chargesheet had been filed, there was no reason to keep the accused in custody.
He pointed out that Dasgupta suffers from severe Diabetes and Ankylosis, a condition where bone joints stiffen.
The Court, however, adjourned the matter to January 15, while refusing to grant interim bail. It was made clear that no further adjournments will be granted beyond that date.
The TRP Scam was discovered by the Crime Branch of Mumbai Police through certain employees of the Hansa Group, after the police was informed that ‘sampling metering services’ were being manipulated by paying people to watch particular TV channels.
A rise in TRPs was, thereby, allegedly achieved by paying money to the television viewers whose houses had barometers installed.
The viewers watched the specified channels for longer hours to show an escalated viewership of the channel, it is alleged.
The Crime Branch have till date filed two chargesheets alleging that the accused have committed offences under Sections 406, 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) 465, 468 (forgery), 201, 204 (disappearance or destruction of evidence), 212 (harbouring offender) and 120B (conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code.