Sting in the cash for vote operation

Lata Jain

TDP Telangana MLA Revanth Reddy, who was caught while allegedly trying to bribe to a nominated MLA to vote for his party’s nominee in today’s Telangana Legislative Council polls, was arrested and sent to 14-day judicial custody. The court allowed Reddy to cast his vote in the polls.

ACB Director General A K Khan told that Reddy and two others were sent to 14-days judicial custody.”Reventh Reddy was allowed by the court to cast his vote in the MLC elections today,” the ACB Chief said. The court has allowed legal custody of Revanth to ACB for four days to question on the cash for vote scam.

An FIR has been registered against them under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC, the ACB officer said.

“Cash worth Rs 50 lakh was also recovered and as per a preliminary probe it was an advance amount, as part of the bribe deal. We have audiovisual evidence about the alleged deal. It is a cognizable and non bailable offense. Efforts are on to nab another accused M Jerusalem,” Khan said.

As per the purported footage of the conversation between Reddy and Stephenson about the deal, which was aired by news channels, Stephenson asked Reddy, “Four and half what?” Reddy replied, “Four and half crore. Total Rs five crore which is what you asked. I convinced my boss”.

Well, there have already been many heated debates on this topic in the drawing rooms and office gossips. The critics or supporters of Revanth Reddy and Telugu Desam party are not going to change their stance based on what I write here. But, since this video is doing rounds in media, let me summarize why most legal experts say, sting wasn’t considered as solid evidence.

In the US, by and large, stinging can be done with prior approval from governmental law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In India, however, the issue has been mired in grey, with only a limited light being thrown. In Sweden, sting operation is a strictly not allowed.

Sting has lost the venom; this is how the present case can be described.” These were the first remarks made by a Delhi court while discharging 32 officials of the Sales Tax department facing corruption charges due to a sting operation. The court discharged all the accused under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act, where the prosecution was relying on secondary evidence that is audio/video CD containing the alleged sting operation.

In the present era of advancement in science & technology, the chances of audio/video footage having been morphed or manipulated cannot be ruled out,” the court said.

Senior advocate Ramesh Gupta, defense counsel in the case, had argued that use of sting operations had not gone well with the superior courts, that the secondary evidence in the case was hit by the provisions of Section 65/B of the Indian Evidence Act. He had argued that certificate under the given section of Evidence Act, submitted along the “with the supplementary charge sheet cannot be used by the prosecution for admissibility of otherwise inadmissible electronic record

In the year 2014, a bench headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam said the apex court had approved sting operation carried out in public interest in R.K. Anand case but it will be difficult to understand the ratio in the said case as an approval of such a method as an acceptable principle of law enforcement in all cases.

“Being essentially a deceptive operation, though designed to nab a criminal, a sting operation raises certain moral and ethical questions. The victim, who is otherwise innocent, is lured into committing a crime on the assurance of absolute secrecy and confidentiality of the circumstances raising the potential question as to how such a victim can be held responsible for the crime which he would not have committed but for the enticement.

It said unlike the U.S. and certain other countries where a sting operation is recognized as a legal method of law enforcement, though in a limited manner, the same is not the position in India expresses Mr.N.Ramchander Rao, MLC BJP and advocate.

The courts have given us a legal justification for the use of hidden cameras, and there has been a sort of incorporation of this technology into conceptions of a new Indian citizen—a techno-social being whose duties includes surveillance. Thus, a technology that is morally ambiguous has been rendered normal by its insertion into the heart of our legal system, much as the violation of privacy has been inserted into the heart of the experience of cyberspace via social media argue legal experts.

The Supreme Court said no uniform rule can be laid down on the legality of sting operations as that would leave scope for abuse of the process by unscrupulous people. The bench said question are raised on what would be the position of such operations if conducted by a private individual who had stained his own hands while entrapping what he considers to be the main crime and the main offender.

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