Delhi High Court Observations on Sting Operation

Sting operation can be defined as a deceptive operation designed to catch a person committing a crime. It involves orchestrating an operation against an individual or a group committing illegal acts, gang activities or takedown of an entire multi-national criminal enterprise.

Observations made by the Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court has made the following observations in the case of Indian Potash Ltd (IPL), a central government undertaking, claiming damages of Rs 11 crores from the owner, editor and reporters of Star News:

  • Sting operations are an important part of society as they help uncover misdeeds and defamation law cannot be used to gag, suppress and silence the press and the media.
  • The law of defamation has potential to be an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution and the courts owe a duty to ensure that the defamation law is not exploited.
  • Sting operations have been made possible in the recent past as an outcome of advancement in technology which permits video and audio recording, without the target person coming to know. Such sting operations occupy a place of their own and are today an important part of the society.
  • The only way to bring the misdeeds in the public glare is through such sting operations which may not necessarily result in punishing the guilty but at least has the effect of stopping or suspending the misdeeds, even if for a short time.
  • Even though the press and the media are not exempt or always protected from the general law relating to defamation, it is to be kept in mind that defamation law is not to be used to gag, silence, suppress and subjugate press and the media.

The Delhi High Court also referred to the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case of Rafale and stated that the Supreme Court has gone to the extent of holding that the right to information prevails even over the Official Secrets Act and it has to be read harmoniously with.

The High Court further added that in an era of ‘Right to Information’ with matters hitherto before inaccessible to the public becoming accessible to the public and is ultimately leading to good governance.

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