Home » “Republic TV” claims a rebellion in Mumbai Police; ‘Mumbai Police over react; Goswami may gain public sympathy’

“Republic TV” claims a rebellion in Mumbai Police; ‘Mumbai Police over react; Goswami may gain public sympathy’

by Raju Vernekar
0 comment 8 minutes read

By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Oct 24:

“Republic TV” which is already mired in TRP scam controversy received another blow when the Mumbai police on Friday lodged an FIR against its editorial team for carrying a story of anticipated rebellion in police ranks. 
The police accused Republic TV of creating disaffection among members of the city’s police force. The N M Joshi Marg  police registered an offence under Section 3 (1) of the clause 1 of the Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act, 1922, a Central Act, along with Sections 500 (punishment for defamation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. 
The complainant, Police Sub-Inspector Shashikant Pawar of Special Branch I, named Republic TV’s Executive Editor Niranjan Narayanswamy, Deputy Editor Shawan Sen, anchor Shivani Gupta, Deputy News Editor Sagarika Mitra, the newsroom-in-charge, and other editorial staff.
According to the complaint, the accused aired a report which amounted to incitement to disaffection among members of the police force and defamation of Mumbai police.
The FIR stated that while Pawar was watching Republic TV at around 7 pm on 22 October 2020 (Thursday), he saw a slug ‘ Biggest Story Tonight,’ with Gupta asking, “Revolt against Parambir? Senior officers part of the probe give details.”  The anchor, the complaint said, alleged that Singh was spoiling the name of the police force and using his power to settle personal scores and that many officers were not happy with him.
Pawar in his complaint alleged that the anchor also said Republic TV had exclusive information that there was rebellion against the Mumbai top cop. The complaint quoted the anchor as saying on air, “So now rebellion is also brewing within the Mumbai police itself. This is of course a matter of their own institutional credibility. Shawan Sen is in fact following the case very closely and he has confirmed it for us. Parambir Singh is hell-bent on tarnishing the image of Mumbai police.”

Republic TV is one the five channels named in the TRP scam being probed by the Mumbai police.
The Police (Incitement to Disaffection) Act of 1922 is a Central statute to provide punishment to anyone who spreads “disaffection among the police.” The Act originally  .. stipulated a punishment of a maximum of six months and fine of Rs 200 or both. Several states have made specific amendments to the Act. In Maharashtra, the Act was amended in 1992 to make an offence under it punishable with up to three years of imprisonment or with maximum fine of Rs 5,000 or both. Besides, offences under the Act in Maharashtra were  termed ‘cognizable and non-bailable.’
In a statement, Republic Media called it a “brazen abuse of office”, which if “left unchecked would have a chilling effect on democracy. “  Goswami in a statement said that “For the first time in Indian history, an FIR has been filed against every editorial staff of a network. This means that 1000 employees of the Republic Media Network have been booked by the Mumbai police for a serious non-bailable offence for incitement to disaffection among members of the Police Force and defaming Mumbai Police – under sections 500 and 34 of IPC. They (Mumbai police) say ‘How can you air the Hansa report?’ and we said, ‘we will not reveal our sources’. Hence half an hour ago, Param Bir Singh instructed to file a case against all Republic editorial staff. The staff who are part of the production team, graphics team, promos team – we produce the news together. Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray, let there be a one-on-one now,”  
However late Friday evening, Mumbai police  officials reacted sharply to Republic TV’s claim, displayed  prominently on-screen, that the FIR was “against 1000 TV staff”. “This is a deliberate attempt at misleading people with fake news,” a senior officer said.
While the manner in which Republic TV has been exposing certain irregularities of administration is questionable, the action by Maharashtra Government also smack of political vendetta. Basically it is a cold war between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, ever since the latter severed its ties with the saffron party and joined hands with the NCP and Congress to form the coalition government in the state. 
Now the TRP scam is making headlines and the Mumbai Police has interrogated Republic TV editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, its CEO and other senior officials and has arrested eight people so far. Ironically the Uttar Pradesh Government has also registered the case in TRP scam, based on a complaint of one Kamal Sharma and has transferred it to CBI. However the Maharashtra govt has refused to hand over TRP scam case to CBI and has also withdrawn the ‘general consent’ accorded to CBI in 1989 to probe cases in the state. 
Those arrested by the Mumbai Police include owners of two channels-”Fakt Marathi” (Shirish Shetty) and “Box Cinemas” (Narayan Sharma), former employees of the Hansa Research Private Limited(HRPL) and their financiers, who paid money and installed BAR-o-meters in  households, making them to keep their TV sets on, regardless whether they watched news bulletins/ programmes or not.  The manipulated audience numbers are crucial because they are directly translated into advertising revenue.  HRPL is a firm appointed by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) an organization that measures TRP. HRPL has around 20 regional managers for its approximately 1,800 homes in Mumbai that have BAR-o-meters installed. 
Initially the names of “Republic TV”, “Fakt Marathi”, “Box Cinema” and “India Today TV” surfaced. Subsequently Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh maintained that “India Today TV” was not named in the FIR, although he claimed that “Republic TV” was very much part of the FIR filed on charges of manipulating television ratings.. But as against this while opposing the petition filed by Goswami seeking interim protection from arrest till the next date of hearing, Senior Lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Maharashtra Government and Mumbai Police, submitted that “Republic TV” has not yet been named as an accused in the FIR and that the apprehension of arrest was unfounded. In response Goswami announced that he would file a Rs 200 crore defamation case against Mumbai Police Commissioner for giving “false” information to media in a press conference.   
Basically Goswami’s war against powers-that- be, began when in a program aired in April this year, he accused Congress chief Sonia Gandhi of getting Hindu sadhus murdered in Palghar. The program was aired after two sadhus (sages) and their driver were lynched by mob at Gadchinchale in Palghar district in Maharashtra on 16 April 2020. The incident was fuelled by WhatsApp rumours of thieves operating in the area during the countrywide coronavirus lockdown.  
However Goswami accused Sonia Gandhi of maintaining silence over the matter since those killed were Hindus. He also exhorted viewers saying 80 per cent of the people in this country were Hindus, yet the Sadhus were killed. Subsequently he trained his guns on Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackery for his alleged “failure” to maintain law and order. After the program some Congress workers tried to attack his car near his office at Worli in South Central Mumbai on 22 April. Two activists were arrested by the N M Joshi Marg Police. Simultaneously the Congress demanded his arrest on charges spreading communal hatred and defaming Gandhi on live television.  
In the recent past, a reporter, a videographer of Republic TV and their driver was arrested and sent to jail for four days, on 9 September 2020, when they attempted to enter the farm house of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray at Khalapur in Karjat taluka of Raigad district. They were arrested on charges of trespassing. All the same, the RTV did not disclose (as per journalistic ethics) what story it was pursuing. 
Basically Republic TV has been branded as “saffron”  TV and is being accused of practicing biased reporting in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) and of publishing fake news.
Its reporters have been banned from attending any press conference of the Indian National Congress, citing criticism of their political party. 
In May 2017, Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor, had filed a civil defamation case in the Delhi High Court against Goswami and Republic TV in connection with the channel’s broadcast of news items from 8 May to 13 May, 2017 claiming his link in his wife Sunanda Pushkar’s death in 2014. 
Republic TV is a free to air news channel launched in May 2017. It was co-founded by Goswami and Rajeev Chandrasekhar. Chandrasekhar relinquished his stake in May 2019, leaving Goswami the majority stakeholder. Chandrasekhar was an independent member of Rajya Sabha. He later joined the BJP. Republic TV was funded primarily by Chandrashekhar through his company Asia News. Republic TV was also convicted of breaching Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRA) and News Broadcasting Standards Authority rules earlier.

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