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Taking the sting out

Taking the sting out
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Many people were inspired to carry out sting operations after former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urged city residents to do a ‘setting’ with corrupt officials, pay the bribe and record the whole process on a hidden camera. However, now the sting operation enthusiasts will have to think twice before conducting any such operation as the Supreme Court recently said that sting operations are not a legal method of law enforcement, raising questions on the possibility of entrapping people.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said the apex court had approved sting operations carried out in public interest in the RK Anand case. However, it will be difficult to apply the same yardstick in all cases as it will be impossible to ascertain the real intent behind such operations.
‘Being essentially a deceptive operation, though designed to nab a criminal, a sting operation raises certain moral and ethical questions. The victim, who is otherwise innocent, is lured into committing a crime on the assurance of absolute secrecy and confidentiality of the circumstances,’ the bench said.
The court further said that it raised the question of how such a victim can be held responsible for a crime he would not have committed but for the enticement.
‘Should such an individual, that is, the sting operator, be held criminally liable for commission of the offence that is inherent and inseparable from the process by which commission of another offence is sought to be established,’ asked the court.
‘Should the commission of the first offence be understood to be obliterated and extinguished in the face of claims of larger public interest that the sting operator seeks to make,’ the bench questioned.
The court passed the order while dismissing the plea of two accused who had carried out a sting on Dilip Singh Judev, a former Union minister, and caught him receiving illegal gratification.
Meanwhile, the verdict is getting support from the legal fraternity. ‘It is right that sting operations bring out truth accidentally, but the motive behind carrying out the sting depends on the organisation behind the operation. So it is the duty of the court to find out what the motive behind it was,’ said Gaurav Kumar Bansal, a lawyer and activist.
A sting operation, by implication, involves a bargain to commit an offence by a public servant in exchange of monetary or other benefits so that the person who carries out the sting will be able to capture the offence on his or her camera by subterfuge. This raised the issue of invasion of privacy of the official being exposed, but it was mostly justified if the public servant being exposed was predisposed to corruption, and if the sting operator had the larger public interest in mind. But the legal question of whether the sting operator might be guilty of abetment to the offence committed by the public servant remained unresolved.
‘I am in support of the observation made by SC that there is no authenticity that crime is committed on the assurance of absolute secrecy and confidentiality of the circumstances. However, all the cases should not be generalize. Every sting has a motive behind of it. Some has the motive to expose the corruption, while others expose the crime. Some can be use to get the political mileage as well,’ said Bansal.
‘For example in case of bribe, one may commit crime, because of poor financial condition, if he was lured and is unaware about the sting, and court does not consider it legal, but if a girl who is being harassed and molested by his senior or collogue conduct a sting in which she exposed him, what would be the legal aspect on this matter. Will there be same logic applied into this matter that the accused cannot be blamed as he was lured by a beauty of the girl,’ he added.
A senior police official on the condition of anonymity said it is difficult to prove the authenticity of the sting operation as a proof in the court, ‘There were a number of stings which were either fake or manipulated by the person who had conducted it,’ said the official.
When asked about the officials who were either transferred or suspended after they were caught on camera taking bribe or in any other illegal activity, the official said, ‘The court will first examine all the facts before reaching any conclusion. Only after that the court may decide whether they were guilty or not,’ said the official. This is a time consuming process and their fate can be decided only by the court as cases have been registered against some of them,’ said the official.
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