The investigation into ratings manipulation by three channels including Republic TV is based on a complaint by Hansa, a private company involved in assessing viewership, Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh told NDTV, shortly after announcing an explosive "TRP scandal" on Thursday.
Mr Singh also said the BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) gave evidence of rigged ratings based on data of households where barometres were installed.
"We have got evidence from BARC on suspicious patterns. We are collecting more evidence," he told NDTV. The charges listed in the Mumbai Police First Information Report (FIR) include criminal breach of privilege and cheating, he said.
"Any advertising revenue made by manipulating ratings is a crime. We will investigate that. We have three months to do so."
Denying that the Mumbai Police investigation against the channels was linked in any way to media attacks linked to the Sushant Singh Rajput case, Mr Singh said: "The complaint was lodged by independent agency Hansa, not us. Suspicious trends were noticed by them, not us. They noticed suspicious trends of ratings or certain channels. They shared details of discrepancies."
On whether Republic TV was named by the complainant, Mr Singh said: "A suspicious trend was conveyed to us by BARC. The names of households were shared by BARC and Hansa. The households told us they were paid money to watch channels to raise TRPs."
According to him, details of households with barometers were shared with the channels and these homes were asked to keep certain channels on at all times, even when no one was home. "We have called three witnesses who were paid money to watch a particular channel," the Mumbai Police chief said.
Mr Singh denied any vendetta in launching an investigation against Republic TV, which has been extremely critical of the Mumbai Police in connection with the Sushant Singh Rajput investigation.
"I have no grand design to clean up the system. A complaint was received by us and we will do a professional job, collect evidence. We don't proceed against anyone with vendetta," he asserted.
"More than one lakh fake accounts and bots were created to malign our image and sections of the media were also involved. But our investigations in the Sushant Singh Rajput case were professional and the Supreme Court also endorsed it. Our investigation into the TRP case will also be professional," he said.
Four persons, including the owners of two small channels have been arrested and and the directors and promoters of Republic TV are being investigated for ratings fraud, he said.
Republic TV has strongly denied the charges. In a statement, the channel's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami said he would sue the Mumbai Police commissioner and accused him of making false allegations because he had questioned him in the Sushant Singh Rajput case investigation. "He should issue a public apology or get ready to face us in court," Mr Goswami said.