Defending sting operation as a means to expose corruption, the Delhi High Court on Friday quashed criminal proceedings against two journalists who unearthed the cash-for-query scam involving MPs in 2005, giving a boost to investigative journalism.

Observing that corruption in the country has now taken “deep roots”, the court also said that acting as “agent provocateurs” to expose graft at higher level does not amount to abetting this crime.

Giving reprieve to Anirudh Bahal and Suhasini Raj, Justice S.N. Dhingra set aside the trial court order of July 6, 2009 taking cognisance of the charge sheet filed by the Delhi Police against the two investigative journalists.

The court also slammed the Delhi police for its handling of the sensational scam, saying it seems to have “acted as ‘his master’s voice’ of the persons in power”

Both Mr. Bahal and Mr. Raj, reporters from Website Cobra, had challenged a summoning order issued by a Special Judge in connection with the sting in which 11 MPs from different political parties were caught on camera accepting bribes for raising and tabling questions in Parliament in December 2005.

The expose ‘Operation Duryodhan’ was shown on a news channel. The inquiry committee of both the Houses of Parliament had recommended the expulsion of the MPs — 10 from the Lok Sabha and one from the Rajya Sabha.

“I consider that in order to expose corruption at higher level and to show to what extent the State managers are corrupt, acting as agent provocateurs does not amount to committing a crime,” Justice Dhingra said.

“Charging the petitioners under Prevention of Corruption Act would amount to discouraging the people of this country from performing their duties enjoined upon them by the Constitution as well as the Criminal Procedure Code,” the court said.

“I consider that it is built-in fundamental duties that every citizen must strive for a corruption-free society and must expose the corruption whenever it comes to his or her knowledge and try to remove corruption at all levels more so at higher levels of management of the State,” it added.

The Delhi Police had registered an FIR against the two journalists for abetting the crime of giving bribes for MPs for raising questions in the Parliament.

“The corruption in this country has now taken deep roots. Chanakaya in his famous work Arthshastra advised and suggested that honesty of even judges should be periodically tested by the agent provocateurs,” Justice Dhingra said.

Justifying the mode of operation adopted by the journalists to expose the scam, the judge at another point again said that citizens can act as agent provocateurs to bring out and expose and uproot the corruption.

The court dismissed the contention of the Police that the journalists should have informed it about the scam and it would have taken action against the corrupt MPs saying that it is well known what is the fate of whistle blowers in the country.

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