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Importance of Sting Operations and the Application of Defamation Law

The High Court of Delhi at New Delhi in the case M/s. Indian Potash Ltd. v. Media Contents & Communication Services (India) Pvt. Ltd. & Anr spoke about the importance of the sting operations that are being conducted by various news channels and media platforms and stated that these occupied a value of their own and are today an integral part of the society. The suit was filed by Indian Potash Ltd., a company under the administrative control of the Department of fertilizers, Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

This company with 90% of its equity held by government-funded state cooperative ventures as well as public sector companies, sought the damages amounting to Rs. 11 crore from the owner, editor and reporters of Star News (now ABP News) for airing a sting operation conducted by them in 2007 showing sale of adulterated and contaminated milk in western Uttar Pradesh.

The High Court of Delhi said in this consideration that the courts while dealing with claims of defamation from such sting operations cannot become unmindful of the fact that these sting operations serve a purpose for the society. Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw in this judgment in May 2019, said that awarding the compensation or damages for the offense of defamation against persons, who at their own cost, inconvenience and risk of being in a situation of trepidation and consternation still carry out such sting operations will act as a deterrent and will damper the individuals from taking incentives thus ultimately resulting in the society being deprived of the benefits thereof.

This can be seemingly considered as a progressive verdict which is thereby supporting the freedom of the India media which is actively working as the fourth pillar of the Indian democratic system. The honorable court said that it cannot be elapsed and forgotten that the law of defamation has a potential as well as a probable prospective to become thereby an unreasonable restriction on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution of our country and the Courts of Law owe a duty towards the citizens and the individuals of India to ensure that the defamation law is not exploited.

The Court also said that the company had not been able to prove to have suffered any sort of defamation or any consequence thereof and the court was not inclined to return a finding of defamation or even award nominal damages to the plaintiff against the media house. the court held that misdeeds are always clandestine and are shrouded in secrecy and are rarely proved owing to the complexities of the people involved therein and a true picture is presented by these sting operations, therefore, increasing their value in the society.

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