A Mumbai court, while rejecting the bail plea of Broadcast Audience Research Council's (BARC) former CEO Partho Dasgupta, has observed that he played a "vital role" in the alleged Television Rating Points (TRP) manipulation scam.
The court passed the order on January 4 and a copy of it was made available on Wednesday.
Dasgupta was arrested by Mumbai Police last month. Chief metropolitan magistrate Sudhir Bhajipale on Monday rejected his bail plea. In his order, the magistrate said the material available on record shows involvement of the accused in the alleged crime.
"The present applicant (Dasgupta) played the vital role in the commission of offence," he observed in his order. As per the court order details, Dasgupta was the CEO of BARC from June 2013 to November 2019.
The material collected by the investigating officer shows that Dasgupta manipulated TRP for particular channels by using his office as the CEO of BARC, the court observed.
The court order also said that the accused is the "most influential person who worked as CEO and the other persons or accused are yet to be interrogated".
"In such circumstances, it is the requirement of further investigation (which is still underway) to keep the present accused away from the wanted accused and other material witnesses," it added.
The court was of the view that Dasgupta's release will hamper further investigation, which is still in progress. One of the grounds cited by Dasgupta for seeking release on bail was parity with the other accused, including BARC's former chief operating officer Romil Ramgarhia.
The court, however, noted that no doubt the other accused are released on bail, but they have played different role than Dasgupta in commission of the offence.
"Considering the said fact, the principle of parity is not applicable in case of the present applicant," it said. Dasgupta filed the bail plea on December 30, 2020, after the court remanded him in judicial custody.
In his application, Dasgupta had claimed he was only an employee of the BARC and not a "whole and sole (authority)", and that there are board of directors and a disciplinary committee above him in the council.
However, Mumbai Police's crime branch had argued that Dasgupta, in connivance with another senior official from the BARC and ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd's owner Arnab Goswami, manipulated the TRPs of Republic TV and Republic Bharat (Hindi).
The police had claimed that Goswami paid in lakhs to Dasgupta in return of the manipulation.
Republic TV and other accused have denied any wrongdoing and manipulation of the TRP system. The alleged scam came to light last year when rating agency BARC filed a complaint through Hansa Research Group, saying certain television channels were rigging TRP numbers.
At a press conference held on October 8, 2020, Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh claimed that Republic TV and two Marathi channels—Box Cinema and Fakt Marathi—were involved in manipulating TRP for better advertisement revenue.