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Bombay High Court Grants Bail to Ex-BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta in TRP Scam Case

Bombay High Court Grants Bail to Ex-BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta in TRP Scam Case
The Bombay High Court on Tuesday (March 2, 2021) granted bail to the former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council(BARC), Partho Dasgupta, in the case registered by the Mumbai police over the ‘alleged manipulation of Target Rating Points(TRPs) of news channels to give undue favours to Republic TV.’

Dasgupta, who was BARC's CEO between June 2013 to November 2019, wasarrested on December 24, 2020 and is currently lodged in Taloja Prison. He approached the HC after his bail application was rejected by sessions courtlast month. The HC reserved his plea for orders on February 16.

Background of the case:

The Mumbai Police's Crime Branch registered an FIR in the Television Rating Points Scam in October last year, on a complaint by Hansa Research Group Private Ltd.The police have accused 15 persons in the TRP Scam including Dasgupta, former BARC COO Romil Ramgarhia and Republic Media Network CEO Vikas Khanchandani.

 

Dasgupta has been accused of receiving US $12,000 and Rs. 40 lakh cash from Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswamifor manipulating TRPs for his channel.

During the bail hearing Special Public Prosecutor Shishir Hirey relied heavily on a BARC forensic audit report which accuses several news channels, including Republic and AajTak of TRP manipulation through ex-BARC's top executives, including Dasgupta. WhatApp chats allegedly between him and Arnab Goswami and statements of witnessesare also being reflected in the report. 

 

Arguments:

 

  • Senior Advocate AabadPonda, appearing on behalf Dasgupta, vehemently argued that his client's further detention was not required.
 

  • He submitted that his client has paid Rs. 10 crore Income Tax over the last three years which shows that he did not need to manipulate TRPs for a pittance. He dismissed the WhatsApp chats to be loose talk.
 

  • The advocate also argued that the alleged offence was triable by a Metropolitan Magistrate Court and every other accused, including BARC COO Romil Ramgharia, were already granted bail. He submitted that according to the audit report, Ramgharia has indulged in actual TRP manipulation whereas he is only accused of turning a blind eye toward it.
     
Ponda closed his arguments citing a WhatsApp chat, from August 20, 2019, where Dasgupta allegedly tells Goswami in the chat that:
 

You have too many enemies. But I will be your friend- whichever role I am in, but not compromise my values. Goodnight.”

 

Final judgment:


Justice Naik sought to know more about the alleged Pulwama conversation between Goswami and Dasgupta, and if a separate offence had been registered after the revelation of the chat. The prosecutor responded in the negative.

After taking all the facts of the case in consideration, Justice PD Naik granted bail to the Ex-BARC CEO. Dashupta is permitted to execute provisional cash bail of 2 Lakhs for a period of 6 weeks.


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