This article has been written by Ms. Anchita Niranjan Chavan, 3rd year BLS LLB student at Oriental College of Law, Navi Mumbai.
“There isn’t going to be any big sting operation to catch people breaking the new law; they just want to meddle, and have another weapon to use against people who are more successful than they ‘should be’.” – Justin Robinson.
A sting operation is a deceptive operation designed to catch a person attempting to commit a crime. A typical sting will have an undercover law enforcement officer, detective, or co-operative member of the public play a role as criminal partner or potential victim and go along with a suspect’s actions to gather evidence of the suspect’s wrongdoing. Mass media journalists occasionally resort to sting operations to record video and broadcast to expose criminal activity. A sting operation may be defined as an action that is taken secretly to expose a person or to catch a person red-handedly in doing something which is of evil nature. A sting operation raises many issues of morality, constitutionality, and legality. The question of privacy and confidentiality is at stake.
Sting operations are common in many countries, such as the United States, but they are not permitted in some countries, such as Sweden or France. In India application of sting operation or undercover action to gather the evidence without the knowledge and consent of such stung person and has attracted a lot of debate. Sting operations are investigative actions conducted by law enforcement organizations to find crimes that are pervasive throughout the nation. It is designed to catch a criminal who uses deception to commit a crime. It’s a tricky trust game that was carefully planned. It’s a complex trust game masterminded with good caution.
The concept ‘Sting operation’ appears to have originated from the name of a famous American movie the “Sting” that was filmed sometime in the year of 1973. The film was based on a complicated plot hatched by two people to trick a third person to execute an offence. Sting operations are neither acceptable in any court nor it is ethical to conduct on any person. It is unethical because, persuasion to do something wrong is also a wrong. Not accepted in any court because, there is no surety that, a person would have commit crime in natural scenario. Leaking information is both ethical and unethical depending on situation. Leaking documents for public awareness or exposing a crime is ethical. Hiding the identity of leaker is also right to provide her protection and privacy.
Examples related to Sting Operations are-
- Target traffic offenses such as speeding and drunk driving,
- Target prostitution,
- Target car theft,
- Target drug dealing,
- Target illegal sales of alcohol and tobacco to minors,
- Passing off weapons or explosives (whether fake or real), to a would-be terrorist.
TYPES OF STING OPERATION-
We can classify the sting operations in two types which are positive sting and negative sting.
- Positive Sting: Helpful for society, Expose scams, Exposing corruption, Exposing political implications, Shakti Kapoor- Cobra post 360.
- Negative Sting: Invasion of privacy, Black mailing, Sting without obligations on accused, Uma Khurana case.
FAMOUS STING OPERATIONS IN INDIA-
No rules governing sting operations have been established by any court. Different responses have been given by the judiciary. While a small number of people have raised concerns about sting operations’ potential to violate private rights and inspire crime, overall, the legal system views them as legitimate. Indian legislation on the evidentiary significance of sting operation is still in a place of swirl.
Narada Sting Operation Case- The Narada case pertains to a series of sting operations conducted by Narada news in West Bengal. The tapes showed 12 TMC ministers, leaders and an IPS officer accepting bribes from representatives of a fictitious company in return for favours.
Tehelka’s– First sting operation was on a cricket match fixing scandal in 2000. In 2001, it won national fame and public support for its sting “Operation West End”. This 2001 undercover operation recorded and released footage of government officials accepting prostitutes and bribes in a fake arms deal. This caused the resignations of several officials including the then Defence Minister and two presidents of the ruling parties.
In the case of Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, the supreme court ruled that the need for individuals in a democratic nation to be sufficiently informed so they can have an informed influence on decisions that may affect them stems from the public interest through freedom of discussion, of which freedom of the press is one component. The right of the people to know is a fundamental principle that is at play in various cases.
Sri Bhardwaj Media Case in 2007, the Delhi High Court upheld the propriety of a tape from a sting operation that caught members of parliament accepting payments, in the interest of the general public. However, the supreme court ruled that wiretaps constitute a “serious invasion of a person’s privacy” in this case.
In the case of State of Haryana v. Ved Prakash, the Apex Court took a conflicting view by holding that the recorded statements constitute inducement and are therefore inadmissible.
In the case of the State of UP v. Raj Narain, stated: “The people of this country have the right to know every public act, everything that their public officials do in a public manner. Their right to know derives from the concept of freedom of speech.
STING OPERATIONS IN US AND UK-
Sting operations in US and UK are legal. They are regarded to be the bread and butter of the organization, given the reality of the FBI. Sting operations are valid tools or legal Enforcement agencies. United Kingdom too, sting operations are deemed to be legal, but in a restricted manner.
Abscam was an FBI sting operation in the late 1970s and early 1980s that led to the convictions of seven members of the United States Congress, among others, for bribery and corruption.
Money Laundering Case was explained in United States v. Foster. The court observed that “Money laundering is a crime of subterfuge and concealment. Bank records alone reveal little, if any, information if the alleged laundering is as sophisticated as is alleged in this case. Undercover operations, therefore, can be an essential tool in tying seemingly innocuous bank entries to criminal activity.”
ACTION AGAINST STING OPERATIONS-
There are various actions which can be taken:
- Under torts, an action can be taken for unlawful invasion.
- Under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution for violation of the Right to life.
- Under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution for violation of the right of privacy.
- Under section 12 of Prevention of Corruption Act, for abatement of an offense.
PROBLEMS RELATED WITH STING OPERATIONS-
- Inducement to commit crime,
- Invasion into privacy,
- Dire consequences of a sting operation to reputation.
PURPOSES OF STING OPERATION-
- To collect the evidence
- Prevention of specific crime to happen
- Revealing factual data
- Revealing scams
- To investigate faults in public sector schemes
- To see allotment of funds
- To know the implementation of any particular scheme
The Supreme Court should make observations regarding the sting operations that are taking place today in order to achieve economic advantage. The issue with the media is that it only promotes stories that capture its audience’s interest and imagination, which could damage its reputation in the eyes of society. There needs to be a set of laws and effective regulation. Since there are no provisions dealing with the admissibility of the evidence obtained through a sting operation. The very nature of the Constitution needs to be protected which guarantees every individual right to privacy.It is urged that the matter should be taken up in manner so that both right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) (a) and right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India are addressed in a balanced manner.
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