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Supreme Court Puts a Stop on the Criminal Proceedings Against India Today Editors for 2016 Sting Operation on Karnataka Politician

Supreme Court Halts Criminal Proceedings Against India Today Editors for 2016 Sting Operation on Karnataka Politician

The Supreme Court has intervened to halt the ongoing criminal proceedings against India Today Editor-Chief Mr. Aroon Purie, senior journalist Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, and  senior editor Mr. Shiv Aroor. These journalists were accused of forgery, harming reputation, cheating, and promoting enmity between different groups. This significant decision was made in response to a challenge against the Karnataka High Court’s decision, which had previously declined to quash the FIR lodged by MLA Mr. BR Patil against these senior journalists over an alleged sting operation conducted on him in 2016.

A bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra issued a notice on the matter and directed the standing counsel of the State of Karnataka to be served accordingly. Representing the petitioners, Senior Advocate Dr. S Muralidhar presented the case before the court.

Previously, the Karnataka High Court, under the leadership of Justice R Nataraj, on December 18, had turned down the plea to quash the criminal charges against the senior journalists under Section 482 of the CrPC. The news channel had broadcasted the sting operation as part of their “The Rajya Sabha Bazaar” story, purportedly portraying Mr. BR Patil as a corrupt politician. The FIR against the senior journalists was registered under Sections 417, 420, 468, 153A, 120B of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and Section 65 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

In his FIR, MLA Mr. BR Patil alleged that the false sting operation was orchestrated to negatively impact the Rajya Sabha elections scheduled for June 11, 2016. The sting operation depicted the former MLA and other legislators as being involved in a ‘cash-for-votes scam’. However, the High Court pointed out that there was no instance in the video where the former MLA discussed the act of casting his vote in exchange for monetary gain.

The High Court stated, “… this Court felt that the image of the respondent No.2 was unnecessarily shown along with some members of Legislative Assembly who were allegedly involved in the cash for votes scam, which the petitioners tried to uncover through a sting operation. The entire videograph does not disclose that the respondent No.2 had even whispered that he would cast his vote for cash. On the contrary, the audio track, disclosed that the respondent No.2 was discussing about the on going cricket match in Bengaluru. It is therefore, clear that the image of the respondent No.2 was shown inappropriately in the news article that was published by the petitioners.”

The High Court, while dismissing the petition, emphasized that the intention to harm the reputation of the accused individuals requires further investigation. A prima facie case of creating false electronic records, specifically doctored graphics of the sting, under Section 469 IPC was found to exist.

However, in a gesture of consideration, the High Court exempted Mr. Aroon Purie, who is 78 years old, from personal appearance for investigation due to age-related concerns. This exemption stands unless corroborative evidence is discovered from other co-accused individuals related to the offenses committed.

The legal battle, which has been closely followed by the media and public alike, revolves around the ethics and legality of sting operations conducted by journalists. Sting operations have been a contentious issue, with arguments focusing on their potential to expose corruption and malpractice on one hand, and concerns about their ethical implications and potential for misuse on the other.

India Today, as a leading news channel, has often been at the forefront of investigative journalism. Sting operations, when conducted responsibly and ethically, serve as a powerful tool for exposing corruption and holding individuals accountable. However, the recent case involving the alleged sting operation on Mr. BR Patil has raised important questions about the methods and ethics of conducting such operations.

The Supreme Court’s decision to stay the criminal proceedings against the India Today editors offers a significant development in this case. It provides an opportunity for a more comprehensive examination of the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged sting operation and its implications.

In conclusion, while the legal battle is far from over, the Supreme Court’s intervention marks a crucial step in the ongoing debate over the role and responsibilities of journalists in conducting sting operations. The case serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding ethical standards in journalism and ensuring that investigative methods are used responsibly and transparently.

Case Details: AROON PURIE vs. STATE OF KARNATAKA SLP(Crl) No. 003706 – / 2024

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