[Judgement] Supreme Court Guidelines on Sting OperationsDevendra Vishwakarma
- Supreme Court guidelines on Sting Operation
- Timeline/Sequence of Events
- SC observation on Sting-Ops
- Law commission Observations
Supreme Court guidelines on Sting Operation
This topic should come as handy fodder points in GS-4 Ethics paper case studies related to Sting operations.
Timeline/Sequence of Events
Case began in 2003 and dragged all the way to 2014.
- 2003: Environment Minister of Dilip Singh Judev was caught on tape accepting bribe for clearing mining projects in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
- CBI lodged FIR against the businessman and journalist who carried this sting operation.
- They were charged with “abatement of corruption”, which is punishable upto five years under prevention of corruption act in India.
- 2008: Those two “sting operators” went to Delhi High court, but HC refused to grant relief. So they went to Supreme Court of India.
- 2014, April: Supreme Court said Delhi Hight Court is right, CBI’s FIR is right. CBI is free to investigate against you for abetting corruption.
SC observation on Sting-Ops
- US-law enforcement agencies conduct sting operation against drug lords, to gather evidences. They’re admissible in (their) court.
- In US, UK and Canada sting operations are usually deemed a legal method of law enforcement. But with safeguards. They differentiate between Sting operations vs Entrapment.
- But in India, Sting operation is NOT a legal method of law enforcement. (CBI/ACB cannot randomly lay traps against any public servant, just to check whether he is honest or not. Such “sting operation” or honey-trapping is legally forbidden. Recall the [Ethics] article series)
- We don’t have law for regulating sting ops = possible to abuse the process.
- Therefore, sting operator (journalist) deserves no blanket immunity from criminal prosecution, Even if the sting was done for larger public good.
- If person does sting op. for monetary reasons to expose another person, he shall be prosecuted under Prevention of Corruption Act for abetment or under Section 120 IPC depending on nature of sting op.
- But a journalist / citizen who has no remote benefits from the sting ops- they cannot be prosecuted.
- We need to look @motive of the person conducting the sting-ops. If he has stakes in the process, if he has monetary gains from exposing others, then he can be prosecuted as well.
- Sometimes sting operator lures the person to commit crime, assuring full secrecy & cooperation, and then secretly records him committing the crime. This raises legal, moral and ethical questions about the sting operator because the person may not have committed the crime / bribery if he was not given enticement (by the Sting operator journalist).
Law commission Observations
- Without Sting ops, juntaa would have never learnt about many economic and political scams.
- But in recent times, Sting ops done to increase the channel viewership, settle political scores, harm corporate interests and malign reputation.
- This shakes people’s faith in the institutions and create an atmosphere of cynicism.
- Reality shows that expose “infidelity” of a spouse, boyfriend = against the right to privacy (Article 21). They serve no public interest. Article 19’s “Press freedom” is not meant for this type of nonsense.
- Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 says no program can be transmitted if it contains obscene / defamatory content.
Interview Questions of the week
- Ex-CM Arvind Kejriwal had asked Delhi juntaa to carry sting operation against corrupt officials. Do we need a law to immunize such “freelance” Sting operators from persecution? What is Supreme court’s observation on sting operations?
- Some NGO filled a PIL against government ads, and Supreme court setup a panel. Don’t you think Supreme court is doing “judicial overreach” by setting up panels, taskforces and SITs for everything? Doesn’t the executive have a prerogative to do anything?
- Both in 2013 and 2014, Greenpeace activists were arrested for protesting against Russia. What’s is their problem exactly?
- What is the controversy surrounding Padmanbhaswami temple? What has Supreme court done in this regard?