Bombay HC to start physical hearing in TRP case from March 16

Arnab Goswami

The Bombay high court (HC) on Friday indicated that it was inclined to hear the cases filed by ARG Outlier Media – the group that runs Republic TV – and the channel’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami in the television ratings point (TRP) manipulation probe through the physical hearing mode to expedite the proceedings.

The court also said it wants to conduct a physical hearing for the abetment to suicide case of interior designer Anvay Naik, in which Goswami is an accused.

The court held that as voluminous documents were being filed by both sides, it would not be possible to refer to them through virtual hearing and hence, preferred to have physical hearing from March 16.

Meanwhile, the state assured the court that it would stand by its earlier statement on not taking any coercive action against ARG Outlier Media’s employees and Goswami till March 5, following which the court continued the earlier interim protection given to the editor-in-chief and the group’s staffers.

A division bench of justice SS Shinde and justice Mansih Pitale, while hearing a bunch of petitions filed by ARG Outlier and Goswami pertaining to the TRP manipulation case, sought to know if the state had been able to go through the voluminous responses filed by the petitioners.

Kapil Sibal, counsel for Maharashtra, said it was not possible to go through the responses and hence, wanted some time. Sibal added that he was agreeable to the suggestion of the court to have a physical hearing on the matter and requested the bench to fix a closer date for it.

However, ARG Outlier’s counsel Harish Salve sought to be excused from attending the physical hearing as he had received a Covid-19 vaccination shot and would have to get the second shot in six weeks and hence, could not be present. He, however, assured that another counsel would attend the hearing whenever the court fixed the date.

The court then appreciated Salve for agreeing for physical hearing and said he was “fortunate” to get the vaccination shot.

“Though we are not seeking any preference, we would also like to get the vaccination as we are attending court everyday,” said justice Shinde on a lighter note, and asked Sibal if he agreed to continue the statement of the state that no coercive action would be taken against ARG Outlier Media employees and its office-bearers till the next hearing.

Sibal responded saying that though he was reluctant, the statement would continue till March 5, after which the court could extend the relief till March 16, when the physical hearing would be held.

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