A sting operation is a stealthy and hush hush exercise which is conducted in order to show the wrongdoings and expose the immoral acts to the public at large, which is very essential, and rather indispensable, for the proper and transparent functioning of the society. It is contemplated as the part of a modern democratic set up which truly believes in exposing the sins. The term ‘Sting’ was first coined in the movie ‘Sting’ in 1973. The plot was framed in such a way that 2 persons force the third one into committing a crime. This movie revealed the 2 sides of the coin. One i.e. the positive side, where sting operations are carried out genuinely to catch the criminal and to bring the reality in the public domain. Second is the negative side where the sting operations are conducted unnecessarily to intrude into the privacy of someone, which is morally and legally wrong. Therefore, an attempt has been made to decipher the actual utility of sting operations, and at the same time, to perceive the repercussions of it.


The contribution of sting operations is significant in discovering the truth. In India, there is no specific law pertaining to the sting operations, but it has been mentioned in the Telegraph Act of 1855 and in the Pre- Conception and Pre- Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1995. Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act, 1855 gives power to the Central Government, State Government, or any other officer on their behalf to intercept the messages in order to maintain the integrity of the nation, or for keeping the friendly relations with other countries. Similarly, the Pre- Natal and Pre- Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 was passed in order to prohibit the use of pre- natal diagnostic techniques to determine the sex of an unborn child. It was enacted to prevent the female foeticide and to achieve gender equality. This Act basically came after various protests by the NGO’s and civil organizations to bring into the picture, the unjust activities done by the people and doctors. But it was realized by the government that it is difficult to catch the people indulging in these activities. So, in 2005, The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provided that the sting operations can be conducted by using the women as decoys. It was even recommended and encouraged by the National Inspection & Monitoring Committee in its Annual report in 2006. Besides these Acts which did not mention a lot about sting operations, the value of sting operations as an important evidence has largely been derived through landmark judgements. It gained prominence in India after Tehelka, an Indian newspaper magazine, conducted sting operations and revealed the cricket match fixing scandal in 2000 in which several big cricketers like Ajay Jadeja and Mohammad Azharuddin were involved. In the year 2001, one of the biggest sting operations named ‘West End’ was done in which several defense personnel and politicians were seen accepting bribes for the arms deal. The relevance of the sting operations can be very well traced out from the case of Vikas Yadav v State of U.P. (2016) 9 SCC 541, popularly known as the Nitish Katara Murder case, in which a 24 year old business executive named Nitish Katara was murdered on 17th Feb. 2002 by Vikas Yadav and Vishal Yadav. Both of them confessed regarding the cold blooded murder, which was secretly recorded by police, and later, the NDTV managed to obtain it. The channel also conducted a sting operation on Ajay Katara (Ajay Kumar, and not a relative), the prime witness was seen accepting bribe from Vikas Yadav’s father for testifying in the court. The sting operation entirely changed the face of the case and Delhi High Court upheld the verdict of the lower court. An appeal was made from the convict’s side, but the SC rejected the appeal and sentenced both of the convicts to 25 years in imprisonment, with a penalty of 1.6 lakh rupees each. The power of the sting operations can be understood by the words of Nitish Katara’s mother, who said that “I thank God and the media for helping me out in this battle.”

But sometimes, instead of adding and value and serving justice, sting operations by media tarnish the image of an individual, as was done in the Uma Khurana case. In this, Uma Khurana, a teacher was accused of forcing students to indulge into prostitution, when the sting operation was aired by Live India. The Court took suo moto cognizance of the matter. Later, it came into light that the sting operation was fake and was entirely framed by a businessman by hiring the reporters of Live TV Network, in order to take revenge from Uma Khurana. The channel was banned for a month because it conducted a fake sting operation and violated the Cable Networks Regulation Act, 1995. Such incidents reveal the loopholes of the sting operations because it damages the reputation of a person and degrades the level of journalism. It completely victimizes the innocent person. Another contention is regarding ‘Right to Privacy’, guaranteed as a fundamental right in K.S. Puttaswamy v UOI (2017) 10 SCC 1, which is savagely violated by the media houses in order to increase TRP’s, which is not in the public interest at all. For example, the intimate photos of the Shahid Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor were captured by sting operation and went viral. In such cases, there needs to be a severe check on such sting operations because no one has the right to film or capture anyone without that person’s express consent. The 17th Law Commission in its 200th Report said that the print and electronic media should refrain from making the things public and giving the verdict through their discussions because it has an adverse and deep impact on the minds of the public, which can turn people into building prejudice against someone. It violates the right to fair trial, which is one of the principles of Natural Justice and also a fundamental right under Article 21. The SC in P.C. Sen v Unknown AIR 1970 SC 1821 said that the media publication of a sub judice trial influences the judges and even leads to a detrimental effect on the sentencing of the accused. Therefore, sting operations should be examined carefully because it has the capability of someone’s right to free trial.


Sting operations have played tremendous and applauding role as an evidence in many cases, but there is a dire need for a statute to be enacted particularly in this regard. There is a concern to take into account that the necessary standards should be formulated in order to prevent fake sting operations from taking place and getting attention. The Delhi High Court has also given some guidelines after the Uma Khurana case, which includes obtaining permission from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for telecasting sting operations, keeping in mind the accuracy of facts before telecasting and many more. These guidelines should take a form of an Act in order to compel media to obey the decent standards. Thus, the sting operation is a good tool to uncover the wrongdoings, but would be more effective, if certain regulations are put into effect.

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