Laws, all over the world, have their origin in morality. Morality is a system of behaviour in regards to standards of right or wrong behaviour. Of course, the morality can differ from place to place and country to country.
Ultimately, the same gets translated into a right or wrong action. Most Governments, at least on paper, want their citizens, to be well protected, moral and express a desire to end corruption, in the services provided..
The custodians of country’s Laws and governance expelled 11 MPs, from the Parliament in December 2005, for charging money for asking questions. The action of the involved MP’s for asking was shown live on the television.
It is worthwhile to give some glimpses of the drama in the Parliament. only to show to what level we have sunk as a Nation. The ‘BJP the party with a difference’, instead of supporting clean politics, walked out of the Parliament, before the motion for expulsion was voted.
This was despite the appeal of the leader of the House, that to maintain the dignity of the House “as certain duties ought to be discharged, however painful they may be”. He said it was not a matter of legality “but the question is to ask our conscience what we should do in this given situation.
Leader of the Opposition, a BJP stalwart, said that the punishment meted out to the 10 MPs was not commensurate to their crime. “Corruption it was, but more than that it was stupidity. They fell for the lure of the sting operation. Therefore, the punishment is not at all commensurate with the crime”. In other words, in his interpretation, the crime was not in asking for the money, but being caught on the camera
Another MP said “If we expel them today, the impression, in the class, to which these MPs belong, will feel that the big leaders in Delhi have expelled their leaders for a small mistake”. His ground was that all involved MPs, came from deprived sections of society, thereby implying that the those from deprived section can commit any crime and that no action should be taken against them on the ground of their caste.
The Police have chargesheeted the 10 ex-MPs under the Prevention of Corruption Act for taking money to raise questions in Parliament.
Apart from them, the two journalists, who did a commendable job, in exposing, the rot in our system, have been accused, of abetting the offence by approaching certain middlemen, under the guise of a business association. This is nothing, but trivializing the law, or at the best, sticking to the letter, but not the solemn spirit, of exposing the corruption and upholding not only moral, but also legal values.
Lok Sabha committee, which had looked into the entire cases and recommended the expulsion had this to say; “A free press using fair techniques of investigative journalism is an indispensable asset to our democracy… We do not hold, the media, in any way, to blame for exposing genuine wrongdoing. They have a duty, to enquire, coupled with a duty to do so responsibly and in that way, can contribute to the preservation of standards in public life.”
Even the Supreme Court verdict of 29th July, 2009 in the case of sting operation to compromise the witnesses in BMW hit and run case
upheld the right of journalists to conduct undercover investigations in public interest.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the global organisation representing over 500,000 journalists worldwide has condemned the imprisonment of investigative journalist in India.”Penalising whistle blowers for their truth telling is a curtailment of press freedom that must be resisted.”
Notwithstanding, the observations of the Supreme Court, which becomes the law of the country, the Executive Through the Police is seeking to penalize the journalists, for conducting sting operations in public interest. Indeed the investigative agencies, who are charged with the duty to fight corruption, conduct sting operations, and collaborate with the complainants in catching the corrupt red handed. The law does not give them any special powers to conduct sting operations.
62,483 newspapers on government records, including 201 big newspapers ,1223 medium newspapers 2,257 small newspapers with a gross circulation of 18,07,38,611 of which 4,88,84,778 are small papers and 6,41,55,462 medium papers, are the unpaid eyes and ears of the Government. The growth of the media has been phenomenal, as the following survey report of The National Readership Study 2006 (NRS 2006), which is “the largest survey of its kind in the world, with a sample size of 2,84,373 house-to-house interviews shows. The study covered 535 publications of which 230 were dailies and 305 magazines The reach of the press medium (dailies and magazines combined) has increased from 216 million to 222 million from 2005 to 2006. The number of readers in rural India (110 million) is now roughly equal to that in urban India (112 million.
Regrettably, all political parties and leaders pay a lip service to the need of purity, and integrity in administration. But when, somebody points out, any wrong doing, nobody comes to his rescue. So here the poor journalists have to fight their own battles, for something they did for the general good. All governments swear by a fear press, but hate, if anybody points out cases of corruption or poor governance.
Indeed the Government should be beholden to the media, for giving them a feed back, at no cost, as to what people feel about their rulers, their policies and where, things have gone wrong, on the ground during implementation.
Article 19-(1) (a) of The Constitution of India provides that “all citizens shall have the right to the freedom of speech and expression.” The Supreme Court of the Country has ruled that; “There can be no doubt that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of propagation of ideals, and that freedom is ensured by the freedom of circulation. Despite the Constitutional Guarantees, the exact quantum and quality of press freedom are determined by a number of factors. The most important are the pressure by the proprietor, Editors, Political parties, Advertisers, and Trade unions.
Over and above, is the government pressure, to portray its achievements in brilliant colours. The least, that the government can and should do is to legalise conducting sting operations in public interest and in the over all interest of the country.
This is, apart from making sure, that the Supreme Court judgement praising sting operations more than once in public interest is honoured both in letter and spirit and the case, against the journalists, is with drawn, with due apologies to them, for violation of the Supreme Court orders , apart from any compensation the Government may like to render them. They should in the first instance not been clubbed with the accused who took money for asking questions in the Parliament. If it is not done, it will convey a wrong message to the media, that professions and actions of the Government are poles apart.