Mumbai: Republic TV CEO Vikas Khanchandani was arrested on Sunday morning in connection with the ongoing probe into the TRP scam, and sent to police custody till December 15, officials said.
Shortly after the remand order by the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court, the Republic TV – which has alleged since morning that the arrest was illegal – asserted that the company will challenge it in the Bombay High Court immediately.
Khanchandani was nabbed early on Sunday by the Special Investigation Team of Mumbai Police, making him the 13th person to be arrested till date.
During the court hearing, the police sought 14 days custody, saying the accused had the knowledge and was a beneficiary of the crime.
However, as Khanchandani’s lawyers argued that the police were ‘hounding’ the TV channel after its coverage of the Palghar lynching case (April 2020), the court granted two days custody.
Soon after Khanchandani’s arrest, the Republic TV initiated a campaign demanding his release.
The channel said: “Republic TV issues national appeal for courts to intervene to stop attacks on an independent news organization” with a hashtag, #FreeRepublicCEONow.
It said that Khanchandani has already been summoned in past and subject to interrogation of over 100 hours by the Mumbai Police, and termed it as ‘targeting’ of the Republic TV.
Last month, the STI had filed a 1,400-page charge sheet against the 12 accused arrested earlier, including certain senior executives of the Republic TV.
The charge sheet followed the unearthing of the TRP scam in mid-October in which at least three television channels, including Republic TV, besides Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema, were named, along with the officials of a market research company, Hansa Research Group, for the said manipulations.
The police claimed that the research company – hired by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) to keep and collect viewership data from bar-o-meters installed at homes – had allegedly rigged the sampling meter services by paying them fixed monthly sums to watch a particular TV channel.
The BARC works under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, and around 30,000 such bar-o-meters are installed across India, including some 2,000 in Mumbai, to monitor the viewership of various TV channels and programmes, and based on the data, advertisers consider these channels for airing ads.