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An online news service which used prostitutes and hidden cameras to expose political corruption has become the subject of a government inquiry in India.

Tehelka.com used hidden cameras to record army officers asking its journalists, posing as arms dealers, to supply sessions with prostitutes in exchange for signing off a fictional procurement deal. Politicians, including the president of Bharatiya Janata Party, were also caught on camera accepting money from the journalists.

Reuters reports that the scandal which erupted after the footage became public led to the resignation in March of the defence minister and two ruling coalition party chiefs in the government of Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Now there has been a backlash against the site, and calls to prosecute Tehelka.com under the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act.

Tehelka has defended the actions of its investigative journalists. Its editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal said its reporters had to play along with the demands of officers to gain their trust at the early stage of its lengthy investigations.

Tehelka said its handed over all its tapes - including footage of one officer having sex with a hooker - over to an army commission of enquiry.

In making allegations about the morality of what the site has done, politicians are trying to take attention away from their own corrupt activities Tejpal told Reuters. ®

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