The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked NDTV to produce the original chip containing the unedited version of the sting operation against senior advocates R.K. Anand and I.U. Khan.
A bench comprising Justices B.N. Aggarwal, G.S. Singhvi and Aftab Alam, however, clarified that the direction to the television channel was not aimed at treating it as a contesting party in the case but as an assistant.
"We do not want it to become an adversarial litigation," said the bench while asking NDTV to also produce the material used during the sting operation showing Anand and Khan in collusion with each other.
The direction was passed after senior counsel Altaf Ahmed, appearing for Anand, claimed the tapes were doctored and edited to implicate his client and Khan.
Ahmed argued the High Court did not grant any opportunity to the defence to cross-examine the reporter of the channel who conducted the sting operation. At this while one of the judges of the bench, Justice Singhvi said sting operation had become a business, his colleague Justice Alam said attempt to subvert judicial proceedings could not be condoned. Justice Alam added such incidents were on the rise and unpardonable.
The bench refused to accept Ahmed's argument against the High Court for conducting the contempt proceedings in a "summary" manner, without giving adequate opportunity to the defence to put forth their views and cross-examine the TV crew. "The court can evolve its own procedure subject to fair play," said the bench.
Anand's grievance is that he was not given a copy of the unedited original chips that continued to be in the custody of NDTV. The High Court had declined to keep the chips with it but had sought its production for viewing.
On Ahmed's argument related to admissibility of electronic evidence in the court, the bench appointed Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam and senior counsel Nageswara Rao as amicus curiaes to assist it in the matter.
The bench said the two counsels would also address arguments on the validity and admissibility of electronic material as a piece of evidence in court of law.
The sting operation was linked to the BMW hit-and-run accident involving Sanjeev Nanda in which Anand had appeared as the defence counsel and Khan was the public prosecutor.
Both Anand and Khan were accused of obstructing the administration of justice by influencing witness Sunil Kulkarni as claimed in the expose conducted by the channel.
During an earlier hearing, the SC bench had observed that the High Court had taken a lenient view by debarring Anand and Khan for four months from practicing in courts.
The High Court had on May 31 last year taken suo motu cognizance of the sting. Nanda stands convicted in the case.The court sentenced him to five years imprisonment. The High Court has admitted his appeal against the conviction.