Liability of pvt ‘Sting Operator’ on ‘facts & circumstances’: SC

A Large Bench of the Supreme Court of India ruled that liability of the private individual(s) involved in a ‘sting operation’ should be based on the ‘facts and circumstances’ of every case; and hence the Apex Court upheld Delhi High Court’s refusal to quash the criminal charges framed against the sting operator under latter’s inherent jurisdiction.

The Court observed that whether the giving of bribe was a mere sham or pretence with no criminal intent or whether it was with expectation of favors, are questions that can only be answered by the evidence of the parties which is yet to come. The High Court was right in not granting relief to the accused under Section 482 Criminal Procedure Code.

The Court said, “A crime does not stand obliterated or extinguished merely because its commission is claimed to be in public interest. Any such principle would be abhorrent to our criminal jurisprudence. At the same time the criminal intent behind the commission of the act which is alleged to have occasioned the crime will have to be established before the liability of the person charged with the commission of crime can be adjudged. The doctrine of mens rea, though a salient feature of the Indian criminal justice system, finds expression in different statutory provisions requiring proof of either intention or knowledge on the part of the accused. Such proof is to be gathered from the surrounding facts established by the evidence and materials before the Court and not by a process of probe of the mental state of the accused which the law does not contemplate.”

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