Sting ops by media necessary to curb corruption: Delhi HC

NEW DELHI: Taking the sting out of operations by law enforcing agencies, the Delhi High Court has said that sting operations are not unethical, saying ‘citizens can act as agent provocateurs to bring out and expose and uproot corruption’.

Justice S N Dhingra quashed criminal proceedings against Aniruddha Bahal and Sushasini Raj who used this method to unearth the `cash-for-query‘ scam involving MPs in 2005.

The judge also criticized Delhi Police for acting as "his master‘s voice‘‘ by shirking away from booking the MPs shown accepting bribe and instead ‘shooting the messenger by gunning’ for the mediapersons who secretly filmed Parliamentarians accepting cash for questions. Police chose to persecute the duo by arraigning them as prime accused in an FIR registered after the broadcast, despite two committees of Parliament certifying that the tapes were genuine and hadn‘t been doctored.

HC rejected allegations by police that since the journalists bribed MPs, they should be prosecuted under Prevention of Corruption Act. The court saw them as "agent provocateurs‘‘ who acted the way they did in order to expose corruption at the highest levels. "To show to what extent state managers are corrupt, acting as agent provocateurs doesn‘t amount to committing a crime,‘‘ Justice Dhingra noted.

He set aside the trial court order of July 6, 2009, taking cognizance of the chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police against the two investigative journalists.

Both Bahal and Raj of had challenged a summoning order issued by a special judge in connection with the sting in which 11 MPs from different political parties were caught on camera accepting bribe for raising and tabling questions in Parliament in December 2005.   
  The expose `Operation Duryodhan‘ was broadcast on a private news channel. The inquiry committee of both the Houses of Parliament had recommended the expulsion of the MPs, 10 from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha.

"Charging the petitioners under Prevention of Corruption Act would amount to discouraging the people of this country from performing their duties enjoined upon them by the Constitution as well as the Criminal Procedure Code,‘‘ the court observed, saying it is the fundamental duty of every citizen to highlight corruption wherever he/she finds it.

"The Police didn‘t seem interested in registration of an FIR even after knowing about the corruption. If police had really been interested they would have registered an FIR on the very next day of airing of the tapes on TV channels. Police seem to have acted again as "his masters voice‘‘ of persons in power when it registered FIR only against the middlemen and journalists and one or two other persons sparing large number of MP‘s whose names figured in the tapes,‘‘ an anguished HC noted.
“I consider that it is built-in fundamental duties that every citizen must strive for a corruption-free society and must expose the corruption whenever it comes to his or her knowledge and try to remove corruption at all levels more so at higher levels of management of the State,” it added.

“Corruption in this country has now taken deep roots. Chanakaya in his famous work Arthshastra advised and suggested that honesty of even judges should be periodically tested by the agent provocateurs,” Justice Dhingra said.

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