This article is written by Akshat Mehta, a student of the Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad. In this research article, he tried to explain the validity of sting operations in India in the context of Constitutional Morality. He also expressed his ideas on negative outcomes of sting operations when it violates the Fundamental Rights of the citizens. 


The credibility of sting operations has always been in question since its inception, not because of its end result but because of its means to reach the ultimate end. The word ‘Sting’ literally means “a carefully planned operation, typically one involving deception”.  A sting operation is an informal gathering exercise which could also be called ‘Investigative Journalism’ and ‘Undercover Journalism’. A sting operation is often organized to expose or uncover the unreachable truth but the way it is being carried out is often termed as unscrupulous and unethical. In the Indian context, earlier it was being done only to expose the corruption cases and political mishaps but now is often organized by journalists and normal citizens to uncover the curtains from the so-called morality of public authorities and to expose them before the mainstream media. 

Sting Operations in Indian Context

In Indian context ‘Sting Operations’ are sometimes regarded as unethical and unscrupulous because of two main reasons:

1)     Sting operations have not been defined in any of our legislations and statutes nor it has been explicitly mentioned in any provisions of CrPC and IPC. Even after some cases being upheld by the Court of Law, none of the judges have given any guidelines in any of the judgments which could be used as a precedent in regard to ‘Sting Operations’.

2)     It is mostly done by the journalists and high profile media personalities and such acts ultimately pose questions on the very credibility of media houses and journalists. How far is it justified to use any method of getting the information? Is it ethical for the journalists to use hidden cameras while reporting any story or case? Can media persons use false identities to access anywhere? Up to what extent the media can go and what is the ambit of covering and serving the information? 

Although we don’t have any specific law to govern the ‘Sting Operations’ but an individual can freely approach the Court in seek of protection of his rights and freedom in existing laws. For example, wire trapping which is one of the vital parts during the string operation and provisions regulating it could be found in the Telegraph Act, 1885.

Violation of Rights

In regards to the Constitution of India, ‘Sting Operations’ violates two Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution. These are:

1)     Violation of Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(1) (a): The perpetrators of Sting Operations often claimed that ‘Sting Operations’ are covered under Reasonable Restriction of ‘Decency and Morality’ under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. On the contrary victims of the ‘Sting Operations’ call it violation of their basic Fundamental Right of free speech and expression. They also seemed to claim it as opposed to ‘Public Morality’ because it is not a legally defined and legally supported manner of accessing any information and exposing anyone. 

In the case of ‘Romesh Thappar v. Union of India’ and ‘Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi’, Honorable Court firmly affirmed that except the ‘restrictions’ mentioned under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, there could not be any other restrictions on the ‘Freedom of speech and expression’. The Court also cleared that no new restrictions could be added in the already existing category of ‘reasonable Restrictions’ under Article 19(2) because clause (2) was added after the enforcement of the Constitution by bringing the 1st amendment which already imposes certain reasonable restrictions on this freedom. 

2)     Violation of Right to Privacy under Article 21: ‘Sting Operations’ were also criticized for violating the most crucial Fundamental Right of ‘Right to Privacy’ covered under ‘Right to Life and Personal Liberty’ under Article 21. As held in the case of ‘R. Rajagopal v. State of Tamil Nadu’, “the Right to Privacy is covered under the ambit of Right to personal liberty guaranteed under the Constitution of India.” It was also recognized that the right to privacy can be both an actionable claim and also a fundamental right.”

Types of Sting Operations

‘Sting operation’ and its types were as such not defined explicitly anywhere but over the period of time, based on the end result and outcome; it is divided into two types:

1)     Positive Sting Operation: These are the operations undertaken keeping in mind, the benefit of society. Such cases were brought into the public domain to protect the interest of the society, which if not exposed could prove detrimental for the well being of society.

2)     Negative Sting Operation: These are the operations that are in contravention to the rights and freedom of individuals and organizations. These operations don’t serve the interest of the society and are harmful to the person who was being exposed in the mainstream media.

Incidents Related to Sting Operations in India

Let’s have a look upon some of the cases of ‘Sting Operations’ in India:

1)     Bangru Laxman Case: This was the first sting operation done in India by Tehelka in 2001. In this incident, the former president of BJP Bangru Laxman was caught taking bribes from the journalists who impersonated as the officials of Arm Dealer UK based West end International company. In this case, the court sentenced him to jail for four years. 

2)     Babu Bajarangi Case: Babu Bajarangi was one of the main accused of the Gujarat riots in 2002. He was caught on camera saying that he was proud of killings on 28 February 2002, which occurred a day after Godhra train carnage in which 97 Muslims were dead. The Court used the testimony of sting operation while convicting him.

3)     Jessica Lal murder case: This case was again exposed by Tehelka, in which three witnesses by the name Shayan Munshi, Karan Rajput, and Shiv Dass were turned hostile and were later found to be bribed to change their statements in the Court of law.


All the claims related to validity or inadequacy of ‘Sting Operations’ are claimed using two arguments. One is totally supported by the Constitutional mechanism but the other one is claimed with the backing of ‘Public Morality’ and principles of Justice, Equality, Fairness, and good Conscience. Recently the chief minister of Delhi announced and appealed to the people of Delhi to carry out ‘Sting Operations’ for exposing corrupt government officials. 

His decision was widely criticized by some people and appreciated by some. This is so because all of us have subjective notions when it comes to the ‘Morality and Ethics’. What might be morally justified for one individual might not necessarily be justified for another. So in my opinion there is a need to have a proper Law or Statute to legally justify the credibility of ‘Sting operations’ in India. 

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