Emotional Atyachaar is a show aired on UTV Bindass wherein a person (lead) approaches the channel and requests them to conduct a loyalty test on his/her partner (suspect). A sting operation is conducted by the channel with the help of a person known as the agent who allures the suspect and based on the suspect’s behavior and interpersonal relationship with the agent, he is either declared to be a cheat or loyal. The question which arises in most of the people who view the show is whether it violates any laws. Some of the reviews suggest that it is a staged event while others that it is a live footage. In case the show is staged, then it does not attract any legal consequences. Perhaps if the show is a live footage being telecasted then there are various laws that are violated and the person so injured can sue the channel for damages or take a criminal action against the channel and the agent. Here is an overview of the various laws that are being violated and the legal remedies available to the suspect.
The constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) provided that it does not infringe the rights of any other person. The channel by telecasting the footage of the suspect on national television, is invading the right to privacy of the suspect conferred by Article 21. The claim of the channel that the footage is true is no defense as laid down by the Supreme Court in Auto Shankar case (R.Rajagopal and Another v State of Tamil Nadu and Others). In this case the court held that no one can publish matters regarding family, marriage, procreation, child bearing, motherhood and education whether it being true or not.
Further by telecasting such a content on television at prime time (7.00 pm) it not only violates section 6 of the Cable Television Network Rules 1994 for showing obscene, defamatory and half truths (Programme code) but also lowers the reputation of the suspect for which he/she can file a civil suit claiming damages for defamation or take a criminal action under section 500 of the Indian penal code 1860 for knowingly harming the reputation of a person, the punishment for which, may extend to 2 years with or without fine.
In addition, the content of the show being obscene and indecent, the producer is punishable under section 67 of the Information technology act 2000, for publishing obscene and indecent information in electronic form, liable for a punishment which may extend to 5 years or 10 years imprisonment along with fine which may extend 1 lac or 2 lacs accordingly.
The whole programme is a sting operation which is conducted against the suspect. As per the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, a sting operation can only be conducted for ascertaining the accountability of public servants or for a greater public interest. Here since neither of the purposes is served, it is an offence as a mere private interest of the lead is taken into consideration. The act of the producer will also attract the provisions of the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act 1933, for illegally intercepting the calls of a person without being
authorized by the government. Interception of calls can only be done for the purpose of national security. The punishment for illegal interception of calls is imprisonment which may extend to 3 years along with fine.
As against the agent with the help of whom the sting operation is conducted, a criminal action for cheating can be inflicted. The Indian penal code defines a cheat as “A person who dishonestly or fraudulently induces a person so deceived to do or omit to anything which the person would have not committed if he weren’t so deceived and which act or omission causes or is likely to cause damage or harm to that person in body, mind, reputation or property”. Therefore in this case since the act of the suspect is wholly due to the agent alluring, an action under section 419 of IPC holds good, the punishment for which may extend to 3 years imprisonment or fine or both.
Student, BBA LLB, School of law, Christ University, Bangalore
[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]