Can journalists be prosecuted on corruption charges for conducting sting operations to expose corruption in public life? The CBI says yes.
According to the CBI, a party to a sting operation, allegedly undertaken to expose corruption by public servants, can be liable for prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act, if he/she does not inform the law enforcing agency before or immediately after the sting.
A SC bench headed by Justice Altmas Kabir on Monday admitted petitions filed by journalist Arvind Vijaymohan and businessman Rajat Prasad who are facing prosecution for their role in a sting operation.
The video showed then environment minister Dilip Singh Judeo allegedly receiving Rs 9 lakh bribe from an Australian firm
in exchange for mining rights in Chhattisgarh on November 5, 2003.
The petitions challenged the May 30, 2008 order of the Delhi High Court dismissing their plea against framing of charges by a special CBI court in Delhi.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior counsel Harish Salve said journalists exposing corruption in public life couldn't be prosecuted as they acted like whistleblowers. He drew the court's attention to the NDTV sting operation case, in which the court praised the channel for exposing the nexus between the accused and the prosecution and no action was taken against the journalists.
The CBI, however, has said a party to a sting operation can also be prosecuted when there is active inducement by the sting party or when there are other vested interests other than the public interest.
The probe agency asserted: “Law enforcement is exclusively a function of government machinery. Others can only help the competent/intended government institution in enforcing the law of the land but can never do the job independently taking law into their hands keeping the intended government machinery at bay.”