‘Sting operation not a legal method of law enforcement’

The Supreme Court on Thursday said sting operations are not legal method of law enforcement, raising questions on luring a person to entrap him.

A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam said the apex court had approved sting operation carried out in public interest in R K Anand case but it will be difficult to understand the ratio in the said case as an approval of such a method as an acceptable principle of law enforcement in all cases.

‘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 raising the potential question as to how such a victim can be held responsible for the crime which he would not have committed but for the enticement.

‘Another issue that arises from such an operation is the fact that the means deployed to establish the commission of the crime itself involves a culpable act,’ it said. It said unlike the US and certain other countries where a sting operation is recognised as a legal method of law enforcement, though in a limited manner, the same is not the position in India. The bench said question are raised on what would be the position of such operations if conducted by a private individual who had stained his own hands while entrapping what he considers to be the main crime and the main offender.

‘Should such an individual i.e. the sting operator be held to be 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? 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, namely, to expose the main offender of a serious crime injurious to public interest?,’ the bench said.

The court passed the order while dismissing the plea of two accused who had done sting on Dilip Singh Judev, the then Union Minister, and caught him receiving illegal gratification.

The accused pleaded the court quash proceedings against them alleging that they were just trying to expose corruption.

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