Right To Privacy (Sting Operations)

Freedom of the press started with the dissemination of relevant information about public affairs or the happenings that had a direct impact on public welfare. But the fourth pillar of democracy i.e, the media has overstepped the demarcation that separates the legally permissible contents from illegal ones. Therefore, the regulation and control of irresponsible reportage in general and sting operations, in particular, is highly a matter of great concern. Since sting operations began with a laudable objective of exposing corruption in high places and degenerated into cheap entertainment, it is from here that controversy started on misuse of sting operations.

Regarding the right to freedom of the press, it is not advisable to put fetters on the free dissemination of information, as it forms the very basis of democratic values. It too has to be understood that the privacy of the individuals whose actions are largely in the public domain is also protected.

The question of morality might always be a valid question with respect to the public interest; the question should not be put through questionable means. Public interest must not be confused with all sorts of ‘interests. The private life of a person has to be separated from his public life and all his actions that have no bearing on his public affairs and functions must be kept away from the media glare. Right to the freedom of the press, which implies within the right to freedom of speech and expression, is not an unlimited privilege for its own sake. It is a limited right to be exercised for the public good and in good faith. The very important issue involved with sting operations is the right to privacy; it is valid to point that at a certain point all sting operations do violate the right to privacy in one manner or the other because during a sting operation, in all the cases, the person being covered is not aware of the hidden electronic instruments or camera, etc. for recording. This means that the person has not given consent to be covered or filmed, without which, in the ordinary course, no one has the right to expose any person. Thus, the right to privacy is breached.

However, it may be contended that an illegal act is committed by a public servant during his official duties and abuse of his official capacities are not worthy of protection under the right to privacy law. Besides this, when a public servant performing his official duties is covered in the public domain. In these cases, public interest seems to be more valuable in comparison to the right to privacy. But in cases where there is no abuse of power in relation to public offices but about a moral wrong committed by a private individual, the scales would definitely tilt in favor of the right to privacy.

It is therefore submitted that public interest has to be seen in relation to public duty. If a person has no duty towards the general public, his morally wrong conduct is not questionable and not open to public scrutiny unless he violates the law by such conduct. Every individual has a right to make a life of his choice and pursue such things as he thinks fit. This is the very essence of all freedoms.

In other words, every individual has an inviolable right to be left alone in his own pursuit so long as he does not do any harm to any other individual or to the society at large. Thus, without the right to privacy, the right to all other freedoms will be inadequate in relation to the “right to life” as provided under the Constitution of India. Moreover, it is very important that the right to privacy is not allowed to interfere deceptively. At the same time, the right to freedom of speech and expression has also to be maintained to protect the democratic setup.

Privacy is the claim of people, groups, or institutions to work out for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is to be communicated to others. In terms of the relation of the individual to social participation, privacy is that the voluntary and temporary withdrawal of an individual from the overall society through physical or psychological means, either in a very state of solitude or small group intimacy or, when among larger groups, and in a very condition of anonymity or reserve.

In common legal parlance, the right of privacy has one meaning i.e. a legal right to be left alone; the right to live a life free from unwarranted publicity. In a wider sense, privacy is the ability of a person to control the availability of information about and exposure to him or herself. It is related to being able to function in society anonymously.

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