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MUMBAI: The Mumbai crime branch on Sunday questioned Vikash Khanchandani, CEO of Republic TV, for nine hours, in the Television Rating Points (TRP) rigging case, which involves alleged payments to homes where television sets were kept tuned to certain channels in order to boost their viewership.

Among other executives of the channel, police recorded the statement of COO Hersh Bhandari and questioned distribution head Ghanshyam Singh in Daman. Singh, who was at a resort, was brought to Nani Daman police station and questioned for seven hours.

The police, which wrote to a bank seeking details of Republic’s account, said it had received the statements. A police team from the economic offences wing (EOW) was examining the records.

Police also took arrested accused Vishal Bhandari (21), a former employee of Hansa Research Group Pvt Ltd, which installed the bar-o-meters in homes for measuring viewership, to his residence for a search. Investigators said they found a diary from Bhandari’s house which contained names of TV channels and households which received payoffs.

Police have so far arrested Bhandari, Bomapallirao Mistry (44), proprietor of Fakht Marathi Shirish Shetty (44), and owner of Box Cinema Narayan Sharma (47). They have claimed that Bhandari would pay Rs 400 to Rs 500 to some households, where bar-o-meters were installed, to keep specific channels or their TV sets on. Mistry is suspected of routing the payments.

Investigators have sought bank account details of Fakht Marathi channel and Box Cinema. “Sajjan Agarwal, CFO, Fakht Marathi, is expected to come on Monday. He stays in Indore,” said an officer.

Republic TV’s Khanchandani, Bhandari and Singh have been summoned on Monday again. Shiva Sundaram, CFO, Republic TV, has informed police that he will present himself after October 14. Sundaram was summoned to appear on Saturday but did not turn up.

Priya Mukherjee, COO Republic TV, was also summoned but she could not make it. “Mukherjee intimated us on Sunday morning that she was in Bangalore and was unable to come due to the pandemic,” added the police officer.

In a statement on Sunday evening, Republic TV said its CEO, COO and a senior member of the distribution team were questioned for 20 hours.

According to the statement, the channel was “shocked to learn” that while questioning its CEO, police made “multiple attempts” to ascertain how the channel managed to access the complaint by Hansa which “made multiple mentions of a rival channel without a single reference of Republic TV, Republic Bharat or any affiliate of the Republic Media Network.”

The channel said the complaint which forms the basis of the FIR was bereft of any mention of Republic.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

Moved to prevent CBI from taking over TRP scam probe: Maharashtra home minister

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MUMBAI: A day after the Maharashtra government issued a notification withdrawing its general consent to the Central Bureau of Investigation, state home minister Anil Deshmukh said the decision was taken as the premier agency “was being used to settle political scores and there was suspicion that just like in the past, the TRP scam case which was being probed by the Mumbai police may be handed over to the CBI”, reports Bhavika Jain.

“CBI is a professional agency, but of late it has been used to settle political scores. A complaint in the TRP case has been registered in UP, and it is rumoured that due to political pressure, there could be an attempt to combine all the cases and to give them to CBI. To prevent misuse of the general consent, we decided to revoke it,” Deshmukh said.

He said there have been instances where the SC, in some of its judgments, has taken objection to the CBI’s ways of functioning.

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INDIA

PM Modi hails Amit Shah hand in nation’s progress

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NEW DELHI: PM Narendra Modi on Thursday praised Union home minister Amit Shah on his birthday, saying he was making important contribution to country’s progress and BJP’s growth.

“Our nation is witnessing the dedication and excellence with which he is contributing towards India’s progress. His efforts to make BJP stronger are noteworthy,” Modi tweeted, his words being seen by many as underscoring Shah’s cruciality in the government and BJP’s organisational affairs.

Shah, who quit as BJP chief after joining government, continues to play a key role in party affairs and is said to have played an important role in seat-sharing negotiations with allies in Bihar contest.

Other important figures in the government also greeted Shah. “Known for his strong willpower and determination, my colleague in the Union cabinet Amit Shah is working relentlessly to strengthen the country’s internal security,” defence minister Rajnath Singh said.

Functionaries from other parties also wished him on his birthday. Shiromani Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Singh Badal was among several members who extended greetings to the home minister.

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INDIA

Indian missions collecting Sikh data, MEA calls it ‘reach out’ bid

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JALANDHAR: All Indian embassies and consulates across the world are seeking and collecting details of the Sikh diaspora in their areas, particularly in countries where the presence of Sikh community is substantial. This was revealed when an email from the office of the Consul-General of India in Hamburg, Germany, seeking details of the Sikh diaspora in the country became public.

However, MEA has claimed the collection of data was a “reach out effort worldwide” to help the Sikh community as there have been complaints of persecution of the Sikh minorities in some countries. Hamburg vice consul Gulshan Dhingra had on October 19 sent out an email from the official account linked to the CGI office, titled “Data of Sikh Diaspora residing in the 4 North German States.” As per the email, “The ministry is in the process of compiling the data of Sikh diaspora residing in Germany.”

The recipients of the email were urged to “compile a list with the names and addresses of Sikhs living in your area for onward transmission to the ministry” by October 21, 2020. Europe-based lawyer and activist Dr Manuvie made the email from office of Consulate General Of India, Hamburg, public on her Twitter handle on Tuesday. Later, Hamburg Consul General of India Madan Lal Raigar told TOI that the letter had been withdrawn.

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