in their zeal to enforce law, law protectors must not originate a criminal
design, and then induce commission of the crime so that the government may
A sting operation is an operation designed to catch a person committing a crime
by means of deception. Typically, a sting operation involves an investigative
agency such as the police or the media, who lure a criminal to commit a crime in
order to trap them red-handed. They might pose as a criminal themselves, and
thereby set up a trap in terms of an alluring offer, often known as a honey
trap. Once the target takes the bait, the trappers sting them by way of arrest
In more refined terms, it can be called Investigative Journalism or Undercover
Such journalism has been raising issues regarding law and ethics and has
resulted in various questions; whether deception is legitimate when the aim is
to tell the truth or can journalists use false identities to gain access to
information. The critical question is to what extent can the media go and to
what extent should a person be informed?
The word sting derives its origin from American usage to mean a police
undercover operation designed to ensnare criminals. The word sting is a synonym
for the expression set a trap to catch a crook and this article uses the term in
An informed citizenry the bedrock of a democracy, holding the government
accountable through voting and participation requires investigative journalism
which cannot sustain itself on asymmetric dissemination of information. In many
cases, the subjects of the reporting wish the matters under scrutiny to remain
Among the most popular programmes in India, are those reporting on
corruption and misdeeds of politicians and government officials. 'Candid
camera,' reports many true stories of the day the bribe that the police
inspector extracts from the victim of a crime before agreeing to investigate,
the 'fee' that the government officer charges for his giving the order to make
an electric connection, and the 'contribution' that a company pays a member of
Parliament before bringing up a legislative concern in the Lok Sabha.
all these things do we really require Sting Operations? At the same time, where
such investigative work involves the use of covert methods, it raises issues
that tend to further blur the line between law and ethics. Is deception
legitimate when the aim is to tell the truth? Is any method justifiable no
matter the working conditions and the difficulties in getting information? Can
television reporters use hidden cameras to get a story? Can journalists use
false identities to gain access to information? The critical question that
surfaces is to what extent can the media go and to what extent should a person
Sting Operations: Positive or Negative
Despite the fact that the freedom of press is not ensured in our constitution
unequivocally, a few interpretations by the apex Court have held it as a basic
part of our constitution. However, this freedom is not absolute and there are
some sensible limitations. In the technological age, the electronic media has
assumed control over the print media, and a huge number of individuals have
access to and can be strongly influenced by the information published by media.
Media has an incredible role to play as the fourth pillar of democracy. This
is based on a simple equivalence relationship i.e. corruption cannot breed
within the sight of transparency. The role of media involves uncovering callous
and degenerate public servants to the eye of the omnipotent public in a
democratic set-up and hence, undoubtedly, media is in its legitimate space while
utilizing apparatuses of investigative journalism to make people familiar with
the hideous underbelly of the society. However, occasionally, media, in its
endeavors to secure efficient administration, over-reaches its assigned
obligation of disseminating information and clashes with the judicial functions
of law enforcement.
On the premise of purpose, there can be a delegation of string operations as
positive or negative. The positive are the ones in light of a legitimate concern
for the overall population and planned to penetrate the cover of the
government's working procedure. The negative ones don't profit the general
public, but are a sensationalized endeavor to build the viewership in the era of
by encroaching the privacy or sanctity of an individual or a
Do We Really Need Sting Operations?
The media plays an important role in a democratic society. It acts as the fourth
institute outside the Government. Sting operations are methods of uncovering
information. Although, the Indian Constitution does not expressly mention the
liberty of the press, it is evident that the liberty of the press is included in
the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a). Various
Constitutions have guaranteed free press or media as a fundamental right.
Freedom of press is a special right under art. 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of
India, 1950 but it has certain restrictions. The democratic credentials are
judged by the extent of freedom the media enjoys in a particular state.
the media has a right to impart the information to the public. Freedom of speech
includes freedom to communicate, advertise, publish or propagate ideas and the
dissemination of information. Furthermore Art. 19(1) also incorporates within
itself right to receive information about any event, happening or incident etc.
The heart of journalism has to be public interest and Sting operations, serve
In Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras
, Court said, …. The public interest of
freedom of discussion (of which the freedom of press is one aspect) stems from
the requirement that members of a democratic society should be sufficiently
informed so that they may influence intelligently the decisions which may affect
themselves. …. In some the fundamental principle involved here is the peoples'
right to know.
This concept of peoples' right to know, which was found to be so essential for
democracy, was located by the Court in Article 19(1)(a) in Bennett Coleman and
Co. v. Union of India observing thus:
Although Article 19(1)(a) does not mention the freedom of the press, it is
settled view of the Court that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom
of the press and circulation.
The Court held:
Press has a fundamental right to express itself; the community has a right to be
supplied with information; and the Government has a duty to educate the people
within the limits of its resources.
Justice Mathews ruled in the case of State of UP v. Raj Narain, The people
of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done
in a public way by their public functionaries. Their right to know is derived
from the concept of freedom of speech.
In S.P. Gupta v. Union of India
, No democratic Government can survive
without accountability and the basic postulate of accountability is that people
should have the information about the working of the Government.
In Prabha Dutt v. Union of India
 the Supreme Court upheld the right claimed
by the press to interview prisoners that the right claimed by the Press was not
the right to express any particular view or opinion but right to means of
information through the medium of interview of the prisoners.
In Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Private Ltd. and Ors. v. Union of India
. , the Court emphasized that the freedom of press and information
were vital for the realization of human rights. The court relied upon the
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
Problems with Sting Operations
With great power comes great responsibility, therefore the freedom under Article
19(1)(a) is correlative with the duty not to violate any law. Every institution
is liable to be abused, and every liberty, if left unbridled, may lead to
disorder and anarchy. Sting operations may be an expression of freedom of press
but carry an unavoidable duty to respect privacy of others. TV channels in the
bid of increasing their TRPs resort to sensationalized journalism. Freedom of
expression is not absolute but is qualified by certain clearly defined
limitations under Article 19(2).
The individual who is the subject of a press or television item has his or her
personality, reputation or career dashed to the ground after such a media
exposure. His fundamental right to live with dignity and respect and a right to
privacy guaranteed to him under Article 21 of the Constitution is violated.
'Right to privacy' is ceasing to have pragmatic value where 'sting operations'
define the order of the day. Despite the growing invasion of privacy, there is
no Indian legislation that directly protects the privacy rights of individuals
The classic ethical problem which haunts all sting operations is whether you can
hold somebody liable for a crime that he would not have committed if not
encouraged. It may, hence, come under the purview of Article 19(2) (public
morality and decency).
The 17th Law Commission in its 200th report has made recommendations to the
Centre to enact a law to prevent the media from interfering with the privacy
rights of individuals.
Another major problem is against whom should the sting operation be allowed?
Some are of the opinion that it must be allowed against public servants.
Then, again the problem arises whether a sting operation can be conducted on a
public servant when they are not in course of their duty.
Entrapment or Inducement to Crime (Against Public Morality)
A sting operation has genuine legal ramifications. In the event that it uncovers
the defilement of a public servant, the columnist in charge of it wins ubiquity.
If not, it leaves him vulnerable to criminal accusations.
When a particular journalist goes undercover and plays to be a part of the
scheme of things while trying to uncover the corruption in a particular
department, he is simply resting on the allegations on and image of the public
officials working in that department. Even if they were not involved in
corruption before, this might be their first encounter with a person trying to
bribe them and with such a lucrative offering at hand, they might accept the
bribe; which will lead the media to the conclusion that the ghosts of corruption
already haunted such department, even if they did not. You cannot hold a person
guilty for a crime that he would not have committed, had he not been encouraged
to do so.
A sting operation aired by Live India
, demonstrated Ms. Uma Khurana, a
teacher, purportedly compelling a young student into prostitution. In the
mayhem that took after, a few people physically assaulted her and even tore her
clothes. The Court took suomotu cognizance of the matter and started proceedings
where the Court discovered that the accused was innocent and a piece of the
sting operation had been arranged dramatically.
The court, relying on the
decision in Keith Jacobson v. United States, held that media in its
endeavors to reveal truth in public interest ought not to go too far by turning
to entanglement of any individual. The US Supreme Court had held that in
their zeal to enforce law, law protectors must not originate a criminal design,
and then induce commission of the crime so that the government may
The Supreme Court in Rajat Prasad v. C.B.I
. held the journalist, who
conducted the sting operation, guilty of abetment to bribery by stating that
where a man draws another to acknowledge a payoff while covertly video recording
the demonstration, it is ensnarement, which could be legitimate or criminal,
relying upon the goal and thought process of the bribe supplier.
If the allegations are baseless, the sting operations might as well serve as
entrapment for the honest public officials. The question is one of public
morality i.e., firstly, you induce a person into committing a crime by promising
him a reward for breaking the law and then hold him guilty for accepting the
Scholars have suggested, every now and then, that the public officials are
subject to wider scrutiny of the media in general interest and, therefore, there
should be no entrapment charges on media for sting operations conducted against
them. The term public servant
finds its definition in the Prevention of
Corruption Act. However, one more aspect that requires contemplation is
whether a sting operation is permissible when the public servant is not acting
during the course of his duty; bringing in, the question of invasion of an individua's privacy.
Sting Operation vis-à-vis Right to Privacy (An Invasion of Privacy)
Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India provides for nothing in sub-clause
(a) shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to,
or prevent the state from making any law relating to libel, slander, defamation,
contempt of court or nay matter which offends decency or morality or which
determines the security of, or tends to overthrow the state.
In Romesh Thapar Case
 the Supreme Court laid down an important principle and
giving restrictive interference to clause 2 of Article 19 having allowed the
imposition of restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression for specified
purposes, any law imposing restriction which are capable of being applied in
causes beyond the express purposes cannot be held to be constitutional or valid
to any extent.
On the other hand, 'Freedom of Press' has been held to be a part of the
Fundamental Right of 'Freedom of Speech and expression' guaranteed by article
19(1)(a) to the citizens of India. Is had been held that 'Freedom of Press' is
necessary for exercise of fundamental freedom of citizens of 'speech and
expression'. And so Freedom of Press
cannot be termed as unconstitutional
and void. And as the Constitution says this can only be exercised till it does
not harm the decency/morality of a person.
The Constitution of India gives full liberty to press but with strings attached.
On 18th June, 1951 Amended Article 19(2) by adding reasonable to restrictions.
The restriction must be reasonable. In other words, it must not be excessive or
The procedure and the manner of imposition of the restriction
also must be just, fair and reasonable. In a landmark judgement in the case of Sakal
papers, the Supreme Court held that Article 19(2) of the Constitution
permits imposition of reasonable restrictions on the heads specified in Article
19(2) and on no other grounds. It is, therefore, not open for the state to
curtail the Freedom of Speech and Expression for promoting the general welfare
of a section or a group of people unless its action can be justified by the law
falling under clause 2 of Article 19.
And moreover it is valid point that at a
certain point all Sting Operations do violate Right to Privacy in some degree
because during a Sting Operation, in nearly all its cases, the person being
filmed is not aware of the presence of a hidden camera. This means that he does
not consent to be filmed, without which, in ordinary course, no one has the
right to film anyone.
However, it may be argued that an illegal act being
committed by a public servant during his office hours and in abuse of spirit of
his office are not worthy of protection under Right to Privacy law. Besides,
what a public servant does while discharging his duty is in public domain. In
such cases, public interest does seem to weigh heavier compared to Right to
Privacy. If a person has no duty towards general public, his morality
questionable conduct is not open to public scrutiny unless he violates the law
by such conduct.
Right to Privacy is implicit to Article 21. According to Subba Rao
J. 'liberty' in Article 21 is comprehensive enough to include privacy. His
Lordship said that although it is true that he does not explicitly declare
the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right but the right is an essential
ingredient of personal liberty. It is regarded as a Fundamental Right but cannot
be called absolute. It can be restricted on the basis of compelling public
The court, however, has limited to personal intimacies of the
family, marriage, motherhood, procreation and child bearing. On the other
side, in the Sting Operations done by the media in India, only the working of
the public servants in their offices is covered. The official work of the public
servant should be transparent and open to all as it is in the public interest.
But the court's decision the Right to Privacy does not cover this official work
into the purview of its definition. Sting Operation began with a laudable
objective of exposing corruption in high places and degenerated into cheap
Sting Operations are generally carried out to trap the corrupt, the underworld
dons and spies. They are also undertaken to establish adultery. Sting Operation
can also be useful in the arrest of terrorists and anti-national elements. The
spy camera of media caught 11 M.L.A.s accepting bribe for asking question in the
parliament. When the media gets all the evidence against the corrupt and the
wrongdoer and their aim is public interest, why do media not file a case in
court and submit these as proof?
This will lead to punishing of these
wrongdoers, which is in public interest. Or, even after getting such evidences,
why no report is given to public authorities and make them take some actions? By
interviewing Mr. Prakash Tiwari, Bureau chief, Sahara Samaya, Bhopal, and Mr.
Brajesh, a correspondent of Star News, Bhopal and Mr. Rajendra, a correspondent
of Zee News, Bhopal it was found that Sting Operations are a good way to get
evidences for exposing things and submitting these in court. It is a way of
helping law, as media is the fourth estate of governance.
But, on the other hand, such cases cannot be filed in courts with these tapes,
or audio or video recording as evidence or proof because courts do not consider
theses as credible evidence and proof. Moreover, as the Government Machinery is
not functioning properly, that is why such instances are increasing and so what
is the point taking it to public authorities. Apart from this, when all this is
exposed by media, the general crowd gets aware of the illegal business going on
in the so called Government Machinery
The news Broadcasters Association (NBA)
justified Sting Operation as illegitimate journalistic tool
. In a discussion
with Mr. Kumar Shakti Shekhar, a correspondent of N.D.T.V., Bhopal, he said that
Sting Operation take place in public interest where public money is involved.
Sting Operations are carried out in hospitals which bring out the problems of
paucity of doctors in hospitals, absence of medicines and medication.
But, it can easily be made out from all these interviews that one of the basic
reasons to carry out Sting Operation is to increase TRP ratings or to 'interest
the public' rather than 'public interest'. Hence the 17th Law Commission in its
200th report has made recommendations to the centre to enact a law to prevent
the media from interfering with the privacy rights of the individuals.
Which Fundamental Right is more Important? (The Flawed Framework) Freedom of Press
is derived from the 'Freedom of Right to Speech and
Expression' guaranteed in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
Moreover, Right to Privacy
flows from Right to Life and Personal
guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Both theses come
under Part III of the Constitution, i.e., the Fundamental Rights. So there is a
clash in two major Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
Although, these Fundamental Rights are not absolute and can only be taken away
under Article 19(2), under reasonable restrictions. This leads to burning
debate between the two major Fundamental Rights which the makers of Constitution
would never have thought of.
Repercussions of Sting Operations on Fair Trial
The role of media has been in question, every now and then, in relation to
running media trials before the actual hearing of a case in the court of law.
Media trials become more influencing, particularly, when they happen because of
a sting operation. The broadcast of sting operations happens in such a manner
that a prejudice is set in the minds of the public.
The video object produced by stings circulates all around and influences a
variety of environments, including judiciary. As soon as a sting operation takes
place, media transforms itself into a public court. As per the Indian Criminal
Law, a person is innocent until his guilt is proven in the court of law. Media
trials completely ignore this ideal notion and the person against whom the sting
operation is conducted is exhibited as the convict. Running a parallel trial
also adds pressure on lawyers; who end up not taking such cases.
Trial run by media does not only add prejudice against the accused but also does
severe damage to the person's reputation, even after his acquittal. A classic
example of this would be Uma Khurana's case
 where the court found that the
sting operation was false. Though the accused was acquitted but the media trial
following the sting, resulted in her termination and she was assaulted by the
protesting mob. This case demonstrates how sting operations can victimize an
innocent and cause damage to one's reputation.
Delhi High Court, in a recent case, has made an observation stating, Media
trials do tend to influence judges. Subconsciously a pressure is created and it
does have an effect on the sentencing of the accused/convict. Various
courts and law commissions all around the world have seconded this view. The
Supreme Court too, in various cases, has observed that the media publication of
a sub-judice trial tends to induce the judges subconsciously. There has also
been an instance where the Apex Court passed an order restraining media from
publishing about the pending trial of a civil case in order to prevent any
The concept of fair trial becomes enormously crucial in case of criminal law
because it deals with community at large. Apex Court in has categorically
explained the concept of fair trial. The court in this case held:
It has to be
unmistakably understood that a trial which is primarily aimed at ascertaining
the truth has to be fair to all concerned. It will not be correct to say that it
is only the accused who must be fairly dealt with. Each one has an inbuilt right
to be dealt with fairly in a criminal trial. Fair trial means a trial in which
bias or prejudice for or against the accused, the witnesses, or the cause which
is being tried is eliminated.
The Constitution of India guarantees the right to a free and fair
trial. When media broadcasts sting operations, the prejudice against the
accused violates his right to fair trial. This fundamental right comes in clash
with Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, which is also a fundamental
right. In such cases, it becomes the duty of the courts to develop
progressive measures so that both the rights get appropriate space in the
It is the media's responsibility, which executes such trials. A journalist
should not approach the affair in the question with an attitude of a prosecutor.
While dealing with matters that are sub-judice, the media should have a fair,
broad-minded, and balanced attitude.
Position of Sting Operations in India: A Dilemma
In India we have no specific law which governs such operation and also we have
no judicial pronouncements till today which guides such operations or the acts
of the media. But a person can go to the court under different laws to protect
his rights and freedom. We have wiretapping which is a part of sting operation
is regulated under The Telegraph Act of 1885. In 1996 decision by the Supreme
Court which ruled that wiretaps are a serious invasion of an individua's
The Court also laid out guidelines for wiretapping by the government,
which define who can tap phones and under what circumstances. Only the Union
Home Secretary, or his counterpart in the states, can issue an order for a tap.
The government is also required to show that the information sought cannot to be
obtained through any other means. The Court mandated the development of a
high-level committee to review the legality of each wiretap. Tapped phone calls
are not accepted as primary evidence in Indian courts.
Apart from the common law, the Supreme Court has recognized a constitutional
origin as well. So, firstly, a private action for damages may lie for an
unlawful invasion of privacy under The Law of Torts. These sting operations also
violates right to privacy which according to the Supreme Court is guaranteed
under Article 21- right to life and personal liberty. As the Freedom of
Expression guaranteed in Article 19(1)(a) is not absolute therefore the
Constitution provides with Article 19(2) which protects the public interest,
morality and decency.
A person who welcomes media interest in his life will not be able to claim a
right to privacy as easily as a private individual
is vast room for interpretation, especially with terms such as private affairs
and 'public interest'; and interpretation will be made by the regulatory
authority even though the onus on proving that a particular publication was in
public interest lies with the media house. Undoubtedly, the jurisprudence of the
Supreme Court will certainly influence interpretation.
The Apex Court has always
upheld the importance of an informed citizenry. A sting operation
genuine motive to create awareness of wrongdoing, cannot be proscribed or
prohibited, but still the interpretation of genuine motive
is subjected to the
interpretation of the courts, so the dilemma stands here still, which brings us
back to the square one, to the flawed legal framework, the lack of a legislation
directing the courts.
The Question of Admissibility of Evidence Obtained through Sting Operations
The debate on admissibility of evidences obtained through acts like sting
operations is largely political than solely evidential. It is said that, It
matters not how you get it; if you steal it even, it would be admissible in
evidence. Common law seems to be following this principle while examining
admissibility of evidence obtained through illegal means. Evidence stays to be
admissible even in cases of agent provocateurs and invasion of privacy.
However, it is regularly contended that the evidence procured by a sting has
been gotten by actuation and consequently, inadmissible. Nonetheless, others
trust that when evidence is convincing, it ought to be permissible; and little
heed should be paid on the methods through which it was secured. Some argue that
sting operations should only be allowed and be admissible in a proceeding if
media has received prior approval for the conducting the same. However, such a
setup will render media as some kind of vigilance agency for the courts.
This would not only be equivalent to pre-censorship of broadcasting of court
procedures but also curtail media's right to freedom of speech and expression
warranted under Article 19(1) of Indian Constitution.
The status remains to be foggy, as courts have also given clashing elucidations.
As per the general guideline, evidence is overlooked when it is secured by
charming the charged into executing a wrongdoing. Nonetheless, Indian courts
have disregarded the above stated principle having in mind the larger public
interest. Evidence collected by a sting operation is an extra-judicial
statement given to a third party in specific circumstance, which makes it
Truth be told, the announcements made through sting operations
are more convincing than other additional legal explanations since they are
recorded, which makes them practically verifiable. However, the Apex Court
has taken a contradictory view by holding that tape-recorded statements
represent inducement and are therefore, inadmissible.
Consequently, there is
an absence of well-defined law and courts' interpretation becomes the final law.
It is suggested that in cases where evidences are supposedly procured by illegal
means, courts should only exercise discretionary powers when such illegality has
influenced reliability of the evidence, thereby, affecting fairness of the
While securing the uprightness of the criminal justice system is
certainly a rationale for not admitting the evidence obtained through sting
operations, the courts have held in numerous judgments that this discretionary
power should not be used to discipline the procurer. Further, courts are not
supposed to balance the reliability of such evidence with their onus of
protecting the right to a fair trial.
Of late, however, Indian courts have looked at evidence obtained through sting
operations with more caution. The general standard employed is to disregard
evidence if it has been obtained by luring the defendant into committing a crime
or incriminating himself. However, there have also been instances where courts
have admitted evidence against a person lured into committing an offence upon
observing that there would be an increase in corruption if people who help
unravel acts of corruption in an institution are prosecuted. In such cases
courts have ignored the factum of entrapment keeping in mind the larger public
Evidence by way of sting operations has been treated as extra-judicial
confession in certain cases and thus, admissible. The extra-judicial confession
cannot be sole basis for recording the confession of the accused, if the other
surrounding circumstances and the materials available on record do not suggest
his complicity. However, if it is voluntary, truthful, reliable and beyond
reproach, it is an efficacious piece of evidence to establish the guilt of the
accused, and it is not necessary that the evidence should be corroborated on
In State of Haryana v. Ved Prakash
, Supreme Court held that tape-recording
of confession denotes influence and involuntariness and hence are inadmissible.
In the famous Godhra train carnage case, the court of Additional Sessions Judge
P R Patel observed that a sting operation carried out by a person without
authority cannot be accepted or permitted to be put as an evidence especially
when the Supreme Court has deprecated such sting operations.
Ashish Khaitan, a
journalist working for Tehelka magazine, had done a sting operation on many
people, including witnesses of the Sabarmati Express train carnage and people
suspected to have played a role in the communal riots of 2002. In the secretly
recorded video, two star witnesses of the train burning case, Prabhatsinh Patel
and Ranjit Patel, were shown as saying that they were given money to give a
statement that six accused of the case had come to get loose petrol from
Kalabhai petrol pump on the night of February 26, 2002.
However, in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, the same sting operation by Ashish
Khaitan was considered as a reliable and valid piece of evidence. In the
opinion of the Court, extrajudicial confession in this case possessed a high
probative value as it emanated from the person who commited a crime, which was
free from every doubt. Ashish Khaitan (PW-322) before whom the confession was
given by Babu Bajrangi (A-18), Prakash Rathore (21) and Suresh Richard (22) was
an independent and disinterested witness who bore no eminence against any of the
This extra judicial confession, in case of all the three accused was
relevant and admissible in law under Sec.24 of the Indian Evidence Act.
Believing the footage of sting operation, which had passed close scrutiny of the
CBI and court through various FSL tests, special judge Jyotsana Yagnik
The court has also considered this extra-judicial confession as
corroborating evidence against other accused. In this manner, roles played by Naresh Chhara, Dhanrao Sindhi, Kishan Korani, Kodnani, Manoj Kukrani, Bipin
Panchal and Dinesh Barge also came into scrutiny. The court used the sting
operation as evidence against all these. Except Sindhi, all others have been
Sting operations are a tool that aids in dispensing justice. Although, under the
shade of journalism, this tool could be used for personal and political benefits
but that should not prevent courts from reaping the benefits it offers.
courts have a responsibility of ensuring the fairness of proceedings, and it
will not be possible if the court does not hear all relevant evidence which
either sides puts forward.66 Thus, while examining the admissibility of sting
operation as an evidence, the court should look if the sting operation has an
intention of greater public good or not. This demands balance with the
defendant's right to a free and fair trial.
There cannot be a rigid law on the
admissibility of evidence procured through sting operation because if one
approach hinders justice dispensation mechanism, the other could violate one's
right to free and fair trial. Therefore, the courts should follow a middle path
while providing their valuable interpretations. Moreover, while interpreting the
facts of a case, the courts ought to take into consideration the seriousness of
the crime committed. This would depend on facts of a case and would vary from
case to case.
Sting Operations have been an incredible instrument in uncovering wrongdoing and
defilement in the public arena. We have seen various situations where sting
operations have assumed a noteworthy part in securing justice for all. Be that
as it may, a line is required to be drawn between sting operations that assault
privacy and those which reveal debasement and like others with a particular
objective to secure the very soul of the Constitution of India.
In any case, in the present circumstances where political corruption is at its
apex, it is difficult to essentially discover which sting operations are
politically invigorated, which are truly proposed to filter the social order, or
which are truly the results of fabricated broadcast bolstered by different
political gatherings, their corporate benefactors.
India neither has a particular law administering the lawfulness of sting
operations nor a judicial pronouncement laying down the guidelines for the
regulation of sting operations. Besides the Cable TV Regulation Act, which
lays down the guidelines for the channels airing programmes, the Pre-Natal
Diagnostic Techniques Act is the sole authority that talks about sting
operations and maintains the legitimacy of the same for the purpose of the Act.
The Courts have decided every matter so far on the actualities of the case.
There are no hard and fast rules to determine the different conditions under
which the sting operation will be a legal method of obtaining evidence or a
method against law. The Courts, while dealing with different situation have not
been able to come to a consensus and there is no nexus between the decisions of
various courts on similar situations pertaining to sting operations. The Courts
on several occasion have held Sting operations to be a legal method of obtaining
evidence, while on some occasions have held them to be an inducement to
crime or an invasion of the fundamental right to privacy.
A set of accepted rules and effective regulation is required. It is henceforth
recommended that a sovereign quasi-judicial organization should be established
that has forces of both censure and execution. It is also suggested that a law
should be enacted to avoid media from meddling into the privacy of individuals.
A set of guidelines relating to broadcasting of sting operations have been
provided. Since, there is no immunity provided by law, journalists ought to
adhere to the guidelines to prevent any liability.
Since, there is no law that deals with admissibility of evidence procured by a
sting operations, courts need to give less recognition to Factum of Entrapment
and alluring the suspect into conferring an offense when weighed against
admissibility of evidences. More accentuation ought to be laid on the way the
crime has been committed which would have been committed anyway even if
inducement was not there.
Sting operations are every now and again guarded on the ground that the media
has a commitment to put the unscrupulous criminals in the sight of people when
the law enforcement agencies are unwilling to do so. However, without a strong
arrangement of standards and regulations, these operations can similarly change
into a race to build greater viewership ratings.[i]
- Keith Jacobson v. United States, 503 U.S. 540 (1992).
- Indian Express v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1986 S.C. 515; Romesh Thapar v.
Union of India, A.I.R. 1950 S.C. 124.
- The Constitution of India, art 19(2) (1950).
- Sakal Papers Ltd v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1962 S.C. 305.
- Court on its own motion v. State, (2008) 146 D.L.T. 429.
- Ethics of Media Sting Operations, I.A.S. G.S., www.iasgs.com/2017/04/ethics-of-media-stingoperations ,
(April 5, 2020).
- 1950 AIR 124, 1950 SCR 594
- 1973 AIR 106, 1973 SCR (2) 757
- 1975 AIR 865, 1975 SCR (3) 333.
- AIR 1982 SC 149, 1981 Supp (1) SCC 87, 1982 2 SCR 365
- 1982 AIR, 6 1982 SCR (1)1184
- 1986 AIR 872, 1985 SCR Supl. (3) 382
- Section 2(c) of Prevention of Corruption Act.
- Madhubhushi Sridhar, A Sting Without Public Interest is a Crime, THE
(April 7, 2020).
- Fake Sting: Uma Khurana Withdraws Defamation Case, THE TIMES OF
(April 7, 2020).
- Court on its own motion v. State, (2008) 146 D.L.T. 429.
- 503 U.S. 540 (1992).
- Supra Note 17.
- Supra Note 18
- (2014) 6 S.C.C. 495
- Prevention of Corruption Act, § 2(c) (1988).
- AIR 1950 S.C. 124
- Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India, AIR 1960 S.C. 554
- AIR 1962 S.C. 305
- Govind v. State of M.P. (1975)2 SCC 148, AIR 1975 S.C. 1378
- P.U.C.L. v. Union of India (1997)1 SCC 301, AIR 1997 S.C. 568
- Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India, AIR 1960 S.C. 554.
- I.L.R. (2008) 2 Delhi 44.
- Supra Note 16.
- Media Trials Tend to Influence Judges: Delhi HC on India's Daughter
Documentary, FIRST POST, www.firstpost.com/india/media-trials-tend-influence-judges-delhi-hc-indias-daughter-documentary2149773.html.
(April 8, 2020)
- 200th Law Commission Report on Media Trial, 51-57.
- P.C. Sen (In Re), A.I.R. 1970 S.C. 1821.
- Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd. v. Proprietors of Indian Express, (1988) 4 S.C.C. 592.
- Zahira Habibullah Sheikh v. State Of Gujarat, (2006) 3 S.C.C. 374.
- The Constitution of India, art 21 (1950).
- The Constitution of India, art 19(1) (1950).
- Press Council of India, Norms of a Journalist Conduct, PRESS COUNCIL OF
INDIA, http://presscouncil.nic.in/OldWebsite/NORMS-2010.pdf. (April 8, 2020)
- David Anthony Brooke, Confessions. Illegally/ Improperly Obtained
Evidence and Entrapment Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984:
Changing Judicial and Public Attitudes to The Police and Criminal
Investigations, Thesis submitted for the Degree of Ph. D. University
College, London 1999.
- R. v. Leatham, (1861) 8 Cox C.C. 498.
- R. v. Sang,  A.C. 402, H.L.
- R. v. Khan (Sultan),  A.C. 558, H.L.
- R.K. Anand v. National Capital Territory of Delhi, 2009 S.C.C. OnLine C.A.T.
- R. v. Sang,(1979) 2 All E.R. 1222.
- Sri Bhardwaj Media Pvt. Ltd.av. State, W.P. (Crl.) Nos. 1125 and 126/2007.
- Piara Singh v. State of Punjab, (1977) 4 S.C.C. 459; Barindra Kumar Ghose
v. Emperor, I.L.R (1910) 37 Cal. 467.
- Indian Evidence Act, § 24 (1872).
- State of Haryana v. Ved Prakash,1994 Cr.L.J. 140 (SC).
- Adrian Keane, James Griffiths & Paul McKeown, The Modern Law of Evidence 52
(8th edn., Oxford University Press 2010).
- Sri. Bhardwaj Media Pvt. Ltd. v. State, (W.P. (Crl.) Nos. 1125 and
- Section 24 (Comments section).
- 1994 Cr LJ 140 (SC).
- Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act (1995).
- Raja Ram Pal v. Hon'ble Speaker, LokSabha (2007) 3 S.C.C. 184; R.K. Anand
v. High Court of Delhi, (2009) 8 S.C.C. 106.
- Rajat Prasad v. C.B.I., (2014) 6 S.C.C. 495.
- Labour Liberation Front v. State of A.P., (2005) 1 A.L.T. 740.
- Press Council of India, Norms of a Journalist Conduct, PRESS COUNCIL OF
INDIA, http://presscouncil.nic.in/OldWebsite/NORMS-2010.pdf. (April 9, 2020)