HC quashes charges against journalists in cash-for-query scam

Justice S N Dhingra quashed the trial court order of July six, 2009 of taking cognisance of the chargesheet filed against the two journalists Anirudh Bahal and Suhasini Raj.

"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 said.

Both the journalists, reporters from website Cobra Post.com, had challenged a summoning order issued by a Special Judge after taking cognisance of the chargesheet filed against them along with the tainted MPs by Delhi Police.

The court had on September 17 reserved its order on the petition of the journalists, who conducted sting operation to highlight the cash-for-query scam involving 11 MPs of different political parties.

During the arguments, Delhi Police's counsel had justified the initiation of proceedings against Bahal and Raj contending they had offered money to the then parliamentarians which was an encouragement to corruption.However, the argument was countered by the counsel for the reporters who had submitted that if the money had not been offered to the MPs, the sting operation would not have been conducted.

Eleven MPs were caught on camera accepting bribes for raising and tabling questions in Parliament in December 2005.The inquiry committee of both the Houses of Parliament had recommended the expulsion of the 11 MPs- ten from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha.

The police, on the recommendations of the parliamentary committee, registered FIRs against the reporters and probed the role of the middleman in the sting operation.
The FIR was filed under sections 12 and 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and section 120 B (Conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

The reporters had then approached the High Court seeking to quash the proceedings against them, alleging that the police were shielding the corrupt MPs and framing them in the case instead.

Following a chargesheet by the specialised Crime Branch of the Delhi Police, Special Judge Rakesh Siddharth had summoned the reporters as well as the MPs.
The proceedings against the MPs would continue for the time being before the Special court.

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