Taking exception to "outsourcing" of sting operations by TV news channels, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said it needed to be examined if such operations were actually in public interest or guided with commercial considerations.
"Whether it (sting operation) is in public interest or to make money will have to be examined one day," a three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice YK Sabharwal observed.
The observation came after senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi mentioned the case of CNN-IBN editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, who has been ordered to be produced before the UP Assembly on October 27 for breach of privilege for his failure to appear before the House in connection with an inquiry.
The inquiry related to a sting operation conducted by some other organization and telecast by the CNN-IBN which showed some MLAs demanding money for doing certain illegal acts.
Rohtagi wanted the court to stay the operation of the Assembly’s resolution. However, the court fixed the matter for hearing on Friday.
The Bench said, "very often these tapes are sold for lakhs of rupees by those who do the string operations. They conduct sting operations with the purpose of minting money and go from one channel to another for selling the CDs/tapes."
The court, which is also examining this aspect of sting operations in the MPs’ expulsion case that happened in the wake of "cash for query" scam brought to light by a TV news channel, was critical of the manner in which sting operations were being done and telecast.
The Bench observed that sting operations by the media can be permitted only if it was in public interest and carried out sincerely. “Any such attempt purely for commercial considerations was not justified.
Referring to the sting operation shown on a TV channel about the alleged conversation between a Union Minister and a criminal in a an Uttar Pradesh jail, the Bench said after showing it for few hours it was never telecast again.
The Assembly had directed production of Sardesai after one of its Committees held him guilty of breach of privilege and contempt for his failure to appear before it.
Meanwhile, Information and Broadcasting Minister PR Dasmunshi said that the Government was likely to place the Controversial Broadcast Bill, aimed at controlling sting operations by news channels, during the budget session of Parliament next year.
"The entire spectrum of sting operations, operation of cable networks, mushrooming of cable networks… All these are pending in the Bill, which is still in the negotiating stage with the stakeholders," Dashmunshi said after inaugurating FM Radio channels of All India Radio in Srinagar.