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In the current period where information and communication technology such as news, appear to travel more faster than light whether it be on broad cast , computerised or you can say online networking , an outlook change has additionally happened in means and modes utilized by those chasing for news stories. The press is seen as a central component of majority rule government and press is something which works for nation benefit and welfare. Every citizen wants that there should be a corruption free society and must expose corruption when he comes to know about it. According to Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution ‘all citizens shall have the privilege to the right to freedom of speech and expression’[1]. The press appreciates this freedom of speech and it acts as a medium through which citizens of nation can ask for their rights. Every citizen wants that there should be a corruption free society and must expose corruption when he comes to know about it and so does media play an important role to build a corruption free society.

This led me to my topic “Sting Operation” which can also be called as “New age news coverage.”

Though there is no specific definition for a sting operation in any statute. In general a sting operation is designed to catch a person committing a crime by deceptive or unfair means. A sting operation includes investigating agencies such as police or the media or the central bureau of investigation, who catch the criminal red handed if they commit the crime. They might pose themselves as criminals, and thereby set up a trap in terms of an alluring offer, known as honey trap. Once the person who is a target performs some illegal activity, he is caught either by arrest or publication. Sting operations in India are mainly against government officials or individuals who are against the public order so that they can be taught a lesson.

The origin of Sting operation gained popularity started from the very first sting operation in India called “Operation fallen heroes”. In Operation Fallen Heroes it exposed a few renowned cricketers enjoying match-fixing. Another sting operation done by Tehelka was ‘Operation West End’. It was sting operation done in India in year 2001 by Tehelka. In this sting operation various high level politicians as well as defence officials were caught taking bribe from a company to purchase defence arms from them. The main people who were involved were then hen Union Defence Minister George Fernandez and the then BJP President, late Bangaru Laxman.

Then came my reference case “Annirudha Bahal vs State[2]”. The facts of the case were eleven Members of Parliament, were caught accepting money for raising questions in the House. The name given to such a sting operation was Operation Duryodhana and was conducted by cobrapost.com, Annirudha Bahal and Aaj Tak. In this sting operation cobra post editor Bahal and woman reporter Suhasini Raj acted as representatives of a fictitious organisation called North India Small Manufacturers Association and paid money to the members of Parliament for asking questions in the house. The members were paid Rs.15000 to Rs.110000 and some members demanded Rs.5 lakhs to Rs. 6 Lakhs annually from NISMA to put as many questions as NISMA wanted. An FIR was registered at Police Station Parliament Street under Section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act and FIR was filed against petitioners who had conducted the sting operation.

The Delhi High Court was in favour of the Sting operation which was carried out by Tehelka. Justice Shiv Narayan Dhingra observed ‘that there are duties which are written in Constitution of India for the citizens of this country and they do allow citizens to become an agent provocateurs to expose the corrupt people whether government officials or anyone against public order so that corruption can be removed’.

The Delhi High Court also held that if the petitioner were punished it would de motivate the people of the country from performing the duties given to it by the constitution of this country and the criminal procedure code, 1973 and corruption in this country would increase to a higher level. The decision given by Delhi High Court was accepted by the supreme court and the MP’s were asked to resign immediately with warning given to them

In Rajat Prasad v. CBI[3], the Supreme court in a Three judge bench said that if any citizen performs a sting operation does it at his own danger and can be charged under section 12 of prevention of corruption act for abetment of an offence and can face a trial. . The Supreme Court set citizen’s right to privacy to security over uncovering of social shades of malice. This decision remains as opposed to Justice Shiv Narayan Dhingra’s Delhi High Court ruling.

 

[1] Dr.J.N.Pandey, The Constitutional Law of India, Central Law Publications, Allahabad, 49th Edition

[2] AIR 2010 172 DLT 268: (2010) 119 DRJ 102

[3] AIR 2014 6 SCC 495

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