TV9 director, scribes must face trial over Shivakumar sting operation: SC

 The Supreme Court has express-ed concern over the use of sting operations by televisi-on channels without involving law enforcement officers in their attempt to expose corrupt public servants.

“All sting operations have to be regulated. One has to involve some police officers for trapping a public servant,” a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and U U Lalit noted on Monday.

The court declined to quash the ruling of a Bengaluru court to frame charges against TV9 director Mahendra Mishra and two reporters. The three were ordered to face trial under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other penal provisions.

The reporters, posing as representatives of a London-based company, had tried to bribe Energy Minister D K Shivakumar so as to “expose” him. They were arrested in March 2014 after the minister got suspicious of their bona fides.

Senior advocate K V Viswanathan, representing the head of TV9, argued against a ruling given by the High Court of Karnataka on November 18, 2016. The high court had refused to set aside the order given by a Bengaluru court on July 26, 2016, to frame charges against the three.

The counsel submitted that it was an “aborted” sting operation and the reporters were merely doing their journalistic duty. He argued that Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act cannot be invoked in the instant case as the petitioners were not public servants and were only acting as agents provocateurs.

But the bench wasn’t impressed. “If somebody goes to a minister, tries to pay bribe and gets caught, then he has to prove his innocence in trial. If you are within your journalistic right, it has to be examined.”

The bench cited the R K Anand case in which the apex court had expressed the need for regulating sting operations. Though Viswanathan cited the case of Aniruddha Bahal, in which the apex court had upheld a Delhi High Court order against framing of charges against journalists for carrying out sting operations, the bench remained unmoved and directed the petitioners to face trial. It, however, allowed their plea that the trial court would not be influenced by some of the adverse remarks by the high court in its order.

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