TRP Rigging Case: Republic TV CEO Remanded to Police Custody
Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani is the thirteenth person to be arrested in the TRP manipulation case.
Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani has been remanded to police custody till 15 December by a local court.
Khanchandani, who was arrested by the Mumbai police crime branch on Sunday, 13 December, is the thirteenth person to be arrested in the fake TRP case.
His arrest comes just over a week after the channel’s distribution head, Ghanshyam Singh, was granted bail in the same case. Khanchandani was earlier summoned by the crime branch for questioning in October. He was reportedly arrested from his residence on Sunday.
WhatsApp Chats Retrieved: Mumbai Police
The Mumbai Police told the court on Sunday that it has retrieved some WhatsApp chats between the accused and another accused Ghanshyam Singh. Police further added that Republic TV was manipulating TRPs by using the dual-frequency tactic. Dual-frequency is when one channel gets aired on two numbers.
The police sought time to check the accused’s phone.
‘Sunday Hai, Remand Toh Milegi Hi’ is Police’s Tactic: Defence Lawyer
In defence, Republic TV’s lawyer argued that Khanchandani's name is not mentioned anywhere as a wanted accused. The lawyer argued that that Khanchandani has complied with all the notices and summons issued to him and has appeared at the crime branch whenever called.
The lawyer further added that the police had nothing (evidence) against Khanchandani even when the charge sheet was filed and the reason behind the arrest was the dispute between Arnab Goswami and the Maharashtra government.
The government action began when Goswami raised his voice in the Palghar mob lynching case, the lawyer said, adding that FIRs were filed against Goswami and a privilege motion was issued against him.
Goswami approached the court and in all the cases got favourable orders, and this agitated the Maharashtra government, the lawyer alleged.
Khanchandani is sandwiched in this situation and his only crime is that he is working for Republic TV, which is a transparent channel, argued the lawyer. The reason this arrest was made on a Sunday was that Khanchandani's anticipatory bail application was listed for a hearing on Monday at a sessions court, he added.
“Police’s attitude is ‘Sunday hai, remand toh milegi hi’,” the lawyer reportedly told the court.
‘Khanchandani Was Aware of Malpractices’: Crime Branch Sources
According to sources in the Mumbai Police’s crime branch, during the ongoing probe the police have been able to establish that Khanchandani was aware of the channel’s alleged malpractices to manipulate the TRPs.
Vikas Khanchandani was allegedly a part of Republic TV's internal WhatsApp group where discussions about LCN (Landing Channel Number) and Promotion LCN took place.
The Supreme Court on 6 December had refused to entertain a plea filed by ARG Outlier Media Private Limited, which owns the Republic Media network, seeking protection for its employees in cases lodged against them in Maharashtra. Terming the petition ambitious, Justice DY Chandrachud had asked the petition be withdrawn.
The case came to light on 8 October when the Mumbai Police revealed that it had busted a TRP fraud, wherein ratings measured by the BARC had been manipulated by multiple channels. The police had said that an organisation named Hansa Research Group Private Limited, which the BARC had entrusted with confidential data related to ratings, had misused the data.
Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV has been implicated in the case along with channels like Box Cinema, Fakt Marathi, News Nation, Maha Movies among others.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on 20 November registered a case of money laundering under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the TRP scam case.
The Mumbai Police’s crime branch, meanwhile, filed a charge sheet in the case before a magistrate court on 24 November. The first charge sheet has cited approximately 140 persons as witnesses, including forensic experts, forensic auditors, advertisers and households among others.
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