The Supreme Court has ruled that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority's sting operations to arrest public post holders receiving bribes are illegal.

The order was passed by the five-member constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana in response to a writ petition filed by Advocate Bishnu Prasad Ghimire.

The petitioner had challenged Rule 30 of CIAA Rules that allows the anti-corruption body to provide money to its staffers, complainants or anybody to trap bribe-seeking public post holders.

This rule also stipulates that no action shall be taken against CIAA staffers and individuals who offer money to corrupt employees in order to trap them.

The apex court ruled that Rule 30 was null and void from today and the evidence gathered from sting operations would cease to have any legal impact on all sub judice cases.

The CIAA has arrested hundreds of people allegedly with bribe money invoking Rule 30.

The court observed that the provision allowing sting operations was not just and logical when judged from the principle of fair trial set by Article 20 (9) of the constitution, Article 3 of CIAA Act, principle of criminal justice, due process of law, and evidence law. The apex court also said that Rule 30 did not conform to the principle of delegated power. "It appears to incite arbitrary behaviour among investigating officers," the apex court said in its ruling.

Article 20 (9) of the constitution stipulates that every person has the right to a fair trial by an independent, impartial, and competent court or judicial body.

Petitioner Ghimire said he challenged Rule 30 because it was not in consonance with the CIAA Act.

Both bribe givers and bribe seekers are prosecuted under the anti-corruption law, but the CIAA took action against only those who received money during the sting operation, Ghimire added.

Petitioner's lawyer Advocate Pankaj Kumar Karna said the CIAA had been exercising powers under Rule 30 which were not sanctioned by the constitution or the CIAA Act. He said the CIAA had been providing money to its staffers and other people to arrest public post holders, but no law gave it the power to do so.

"There are set provisions to collect evidence and the CIAA needs to follow those provisions," he argued.

According to CIAA Spokesperson Narayan Prasad Risal, the anti-graft body carried out 61 sting operations in the past nine months and filed cases against bribe seekers in 56 incidents.

Spokesperson for the Special Court Pushpa Raj Panday said around 300 cases of sting operation were sub judice in that court. The Special Court is the first jurisdiction court to try corruption cases.

The court will issue the full text of the verdict later.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 22, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.