Referring to the ongoing probe into the alleged Television Rating Points (TRP) scam, the Bombay High Court on Thursday said all state and central agencies must be objective and reasonable while carrying out an investigation. A bench of Justices S S Shinde and Manish Pitale said a probe into a case cannot go on forever, and the "investigating machinery must stop at some stage".
"The ED, CBI, state police, all should be should act with reasonableness, objective assessment. They should not appear to be another form of trouble," the court said. The bench made the observations while hearing final arguments on the pleas filed by journalist Arnab Goswami, and ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd, the company that runs Republic TV channels, seeking several reliefs in the TRP scam case.
The counsel for the petitioners, senior advocate Ashok Mundargi, told the HC that the Mumbai police were prolonging their probe into the case without naming Goswami and other employees of the ARG Outlier Media as accused, but merely naming them as suspects in the charge sheet.
To this, the bench said the state must make a statement before the court on how long were the police likely to take to complete their probe into the case. "At which point will your officer say there is reason to believe that there is reason to arrest?" the bench asked. "If the state is really reasonable, the state should say we will complete our investigation within say 30 days. That is how reasonableness is shown," it said.
The bench said that economic offences were not like probing cases of murder, where probe agencies had reasons to take longer time to complete investigations. "You cannot have it both ways. You cannot not make them an accused and then say you have evidence. If you have evidence, make them an accused so that they know what kind of relief can be granted against them," HC said.
The HC will continue hearing the arguments in the case on Monday.
The ARG Outlier Media and Goswami approached the HC last year, filing a bunch of petitions seeking several reliefs in the TRP scam. They alleged that the whole case was malafide and they had been targeted for Republic TV's reportage in connection with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput and Palghar lynching case last year.
The Mumbai police in January this year filed two affidavits in the case, saying they had not targeted the Republic TV or its employees. The police had said their probe was not a result of any political vendetta and there was evidence to show that Goswami had connived with senior officials of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to rig the TRP of Republic TV.
Republic TV has denied any wrongdoing.