Former CEO of Broadcast Audience Research Council, Partho Dasgupta told the Bombay High Court on Monday that the controversial WhatsApp chats between him and Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami were mere “loose talks” and that he should not be kept in detention on that basis.
Those WhatsApp chats are not admissible as evidence and need corroboration, Dasgupta told the Court during the hearing of his plea for bail in the case relating to the Television Rating Points scam (TRP Scam).
“Regarding Whatsapp chats, I will only say it is loose talks. Those are not admissible and need corroborative evidence.No one should be detained because of loose talks,” Senior Counsel Aabad Ponda, who was appearing for Dasgupta, submitted.
Ponda along with advocate Shardul Singh placed reliance upon the voluminous chargesheet filed by the Mumbai Police against Dasgupta, to claim that WhatsApp chats could not be relied upon by the Mumbai Police to keep Dasgupta in detention.
Ponda also submitted that those alleged conversations between Dasgupta and Goswami which were part of the chargesheet took place at a time when Republic TV was not even in existence and Goswami was part of the Times Now news channel.
Another ground raised by Dasgupta was that the other accused named in the chargesheet were granted bail or protection from coercive action.
Ponda referred to the statement made by Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal during the hearing of the plea filed by ARG Outlier Media Private Ltd., parent company for Republic TV channels, of not taking coercive steps against the employees of Republic TV including Goswami.
Ponda argued it was unfair that Dasgupta was still under detention.
“I am not saying arrest them. But then the whole group under Republic TV is protected and I am behind bars. You are continuously making statements before the Division Bench that arrest will not be done and then why am I behind bars?” Ponda submitted.
Ponda also brought to Justice Prakash Naik’s attention the replies of the Mumbai Police in each case wherein they were opposing the release on bail of the respective persons who were arrested by them in the TRP Scam case.
Ponda also contended that according to the charge sheet, the Chief Operating Officer of BARC, Romil Ramgarhia, was directly involved in the manipulation of TRP whereas Dasgupta was merely negligent. Yet Ramgarhia was easily given bail because according to the police, investigation against him was complete even though no chargesheet had been filed.
He argued that despite declaring them as the “king-pin” or “main brain” of the whole scam, they were released on bail and such bail was not even challenged by the Mumbai Police later.
“The grounds where his bail was the stereotypical arguments. That he is the brain behind etc. I am also placing on record the report of Vikas Khanchandani CEO of Republic TV who was apparently the main accused,” Ponda said.
Relying upon the principle of criminal law that ‘filing of charge sheet gives some finality to the investigation’ Ponda informed the Court that a voluminous charge sheet has been filed against Dasgupta within the 60-day period as specified under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Ponda also emphasised that Mumbai Police had every opportunity to interrogate Dasgupta while he was in police custody for 6 days, reiterating that “there was no need for his detention now.”
Dasgupta also refuted the charges that he had accepted watches and silver jewellery from Goswami in return of manipulating TRP for his channels.
Ponda stated that there was enough evidence to prove that those items were purchased by Dasgupta and his wife with their own money around the year 2000.
“He (Dasgupta) is not a public servant to be bribed,” Ponda stated.
He also rebutted the charges of violation of regulations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) submitting that the charges were not against BARC and in any event did not amount to criminal proceedings as the offences were not criminal offences.
While concluding his submissions, Ponda and Singh submitted that while the application was not purely a medical bail application, it could not be ignored by the Court that Dasgupta suffers from severe medical conditions which would cause him difficulty while in judicial custody.
Special Public Prosecutor Shishir Hiray commenced his arguments and will resume his submissions on Tuesday at 11 am.